Government shutdown becomes the longest in U.S. history

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The partial government shutdown set a record overnight as the longest federal closure in U.S. history.

The previous record for the longest shutdown occurred during Bill Clinton’s presidency. That one lasted from December 15, 1995, through January 6, 1996.

The current shutdown appears destined to last at least a few more days, with Democratic lawmakers rejecting President Trump’s demands to include $5.7 billion for a border wall in a spending bill.

The president considered a dramatic escape route — declaring a national emergency to build the border wall without a new stream of cash from Congress. But members of his own party were fiercely debating that idea, and on Friday, the president backed away from it.

“Now the easy solution is for me to call a national emergency, I could do that very quickly. I have the absolute right to do it,” Mr. Trump said in a roundtable discussion with local officials on border security. “But I’m not going to do it so fast because this is something Congress should do.”

Two-thirds of Americans — 67 percent — oppose the idea of Mr. Trump declaring a national emergency to pay for a wall if Congress doesn’t fund one, a CBS News poll found. Most Republicans — 75 percent — do favor the idea. Most of them also favor a wall and view the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a crisis.

In terms of the shutdown’s impact, the poll found that six in ten Americans — 62 percent — are very or somewhat concerned about its impact on air travel and transportation, including 32 percent who are very concerned. It also found that seventy-one percent are concerned about its impact on the economy, including 40 percent who are very concerned. Democrats are relatively more concerned about these impacts, but many Republicans share the concerns, too.

For federal workers who got pay statements Friday but no pay, a solution couldn’t come soon enough.

About 800,000 workers missed paychecks, many receiving blank pay statements. Some posted photos of their empty earnings statements on social media as a rallying cry to end the shutdown — a jarring image that many in the White House feared could turn more voters against the president as he holds out for billions in new wall funding.

In a sign of growing unease, five GOP senators backed a bill from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to resume paychecks for some 420,000 federal employees who are now working without pay. Another 380,000 federal workers are furloughed.

First published on January 12, 2019

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