President Donald Trump went on national television, walked out of a meeting with key Congressional leaders, and incessantly tweeted, all to insist he wouldn’t reopen the government until he received $5.7 billion in funding for a "physical barrier" at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But after 35 days of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and two missed paychecks for federal workers, Trump reached a deal to reopen the government — without the money he had demanded.
Speaking from the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, Trump agreed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demands: that he temporarily reopen the government so talks on border security could continue without further devastating the 800,000 federal workers who haven’t gotten paid since Dec. 22. If Congress agrees to Trump's proposal, the government will reopen until Feb. 15 to give Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate on exactly what they’ll do — or not do — about the controversial border wall proposal.
If lawmakers and Trump fail to reach a deal within the three-week period, the federal government could re-enter a partial shutdown. Or — as Trump alluded to Friday — he could declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and get his way.
“As everyone knows, I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time,” Trump said.
In a press conference after Trump's announcement, Pelosi and New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said that Democrats agreed to Trump's three-week proposal and that the government would reopen later in the day.
"As Democrats have said all along, the solution to this impasse was separate funding for the government and then go over our disagreements on border security," Schumer said.
“It’s sad, though, that’s it’s taken this long to come to an obvious solution," Pelosi added.
During his address Friday, Trump also stressed his demands for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border — and for stricter immigration policies in general. If Congress fails to present him with what he called a "fair deal," he said that he'd use his powers to declare a national emergency.
"I believe that crime in this country can go down by a massive percentage if we have great security on our southern border. I believe drugs — large percentages of which come through the southern border — will be cut by a number that nobody will believe. So let me be clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier."
The majority of illegal drugs in the U.S., however, come through legal ports of entry.
"Democrats are firmly against the wall," Schumer said in the press conference Friday.
The impasse began after Trump wouldn't agree to a congressional budget without funding for his wall, which led to immense economic losses for many federal workers and threatened resources for the poor across the country. Federal employees will eventually be paid for their work, although it’s unclear when their paychecks will arrive. Trump said pay will come “very quickly" or "as soon as possible.”
The president also called federal employees “incredible patriots” and suggested they were in support of the partial government shutdown, which started three days before Christmas.
"Not only did you not complain, but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security," Trump said. Flight delays across the East Coast Friday morning, however, were spurred by a number of air traffic controllers calling in sick, likely tired of working without pay.
Schumer said the administration had treated federal workers as "hostages."
During the shutdown, Democrats in the House repeatedly passed spending bills to end the shutdown, although the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t take up the legislation because they didn’t include funding for a wall. Both parties failed to agree on competing bills in the Senate to end the shutdown on Thursday.
Cover image: President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Jan 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)