President Donald Trump and top Democrats in Congress sparred over the partial shutdown of the United States government on Monday, with no sign of tangible efforts to re-open agencies closed by an impasse over Trump's demand for funds for a border wall.
"I'll call it whatever they want, but it's all the same thing", he told reporters after participating in a holiday video conference with representatives from all five branches of the military stationed in Alaska, Bahrain, Guam and Qatar.
The stalemate over how much to spend and how to spend it caused the partial government shutdown that began on Saturday following a lapse in funding for departments and agencies that make up about 25 per cent of the U.S. government.
Sections of fencing have been repaired along the US-Mexico border but no new wall has been built, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said over the weekend the president "must abandon the wall, plain and simple" to reopen the government.
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The border wall was one of Trump's signature campaign promises, which he said is necessary to ensure border security, and prevent unvetted people from coming across illegally.
Democrats oppose spending any money on a wall or fence, pushing instead for increased use of technology to control access at the border. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement.
"It's a disgrace, what's happening in our country", Trump fumed, seated behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday, after decrying Democrats as hypocrites and recalling - unprompted - his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
He also said that federal paychecks would go out as scheduled on December 28, and only a future payday, scheduled for January 11, would be affected.
Trump criticized the Federal Reserve on Monday, describing it as the "only problem" for the USA economy, even as top officials convened the "plunge protection team" forged after the 1987 crash to discuss the growing rout in stock markets. Trump, they added, "wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it". Trump recently declared he'd be "proud" to shut down the government over border issues.
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"Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction", said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies and departments.
Mulvaney said he was waiting for Schumer's response. Another 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will not report to work but would also be paid later. That's when the two houses of the national legislature, the Congress, will meet again.
Trump said Tuesday that the wall as he envisions it would be a fortress that no normal human could breach. Legislation ensuring that workers receive back pay was expected to clear Congress.
"There may be a case of an Olympic champion who may get over the wall, but for the most part, you're not going to be able to do it", Trump quipped. Opponents have also noted previous efforts to strengthen the border that have been cheaper than building a wall.
After speaking to American troops deployed around the world on Christmas, Trump said that he would be open to meeting with congressional leaders, but said he didn't know when the government would be reopened.
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