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Trump laments 'nice present' of shutdown on inauguration anniversary

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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WASHINGTON,DC, United States (AFP) — US President Donald Trump marked the first anniversary of his inauguration yesterday with his government in shutdown, lashing out at Democrats over the collapse of budget negotiations as Congress convened an emergency session to thrash out a deal.

Essential federal services and military activity will continue, but hundreds of thousands of public sector workers will be sent home without wages and even serving soldiers will not be paid until a deal is reached to reopen the US government.

Highlighting the deep political polarization, people took to the streets of major US cities en masse to march against the president and his policies.

“This is the One-Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present,” Trump, who is in Washington instead of celebrating the anniversary at his Mar-a-Lago resort, wrote on Twitter in reference to the shutdown.

“Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border,” he tweeted, later accusing the opposition party of “holding our military hostage.”

The impact of the shutdown will be felt more strongly if it lasts into the coming work week.

Signs that the government was not open for business were already appearing yesterday.

“The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island are closed due to a lapse in appropriations,” a notice on the National Park Service's website said, while a sign at US military cemetery in France where 4,409 Americans are buried read: “Due to the US Government shut down, this site is closed to the public.”

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in a memo that “daily operations around the world” will continue, but “training for reservists must be curtailed” and that “active forces will stay at their posts adapting their training to achieve the least negative impact on our readiness to fight.”

There have been four government shutdowns since 1990. In the last one in 2013, more than 800,000 government workers were put on temporary leave.

“We're just in a holding pattern. We just have to wait and see. It's scary,” Noell Joll, a 50-year-old furloughed US government employee, told AFP in Washington.

Joll was also affected by the 2013 shutdown, but “this one feels a lot more ominous,” she said.

“I think our members are frustrated, they're disappointed in the president and members of Congress that they're not funding the government — doing their job — as we do our jobs every day,” J David Cox, the president of one of the largest unions representing government workers, said on CNN.

A deal had appeared likely on Friday afternoon, when Trump — who has touted himself as a master negotiator and dealmaker — seemed to be close to an agreement with Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer on a measure to prevent the expulsion of undocumented migrants who arrived in the country as children.

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