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Deal struck to temporarily end shutdown over funding Donald Trump's 'smart wall'

“The walls we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls,” Trump said in a speech outside the White House.

Updated Jan 25th 2019, 8:25 PM

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has announced that a deal has been reached to end a partial government shutdown that has been ongoing since December.

Trump said he would sign a short-term spending bill that would reopen the government until 15 February.

Announcing the bill outside the White House, he said that government employees who have been affected by the 35-day shutdown would receive back-pay for the time they have not been in work.

The government has been shut down for a record five weeks over a bitter row over funding for a US-Mexico border wall.

“The walls we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls designed to meet the needs of front-line border agents and are operationally effective,” he said.

US lawmakers and the White House were under intense pressure to resolve the impasse, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers headed into a second month without paychecks, and the political stalemate began to disrupt some of the nation’s busiest airports.

While staunchly defending his wall project – which he claims is needed to keep out criminals and drug traffickers – Trump made no announcement regarding his demand for $5.7 billion to fund the barrier, a key promise made to his right-wing supporters.

Instead, he said a “bipartisan conference committee” of lawmakers from the Republican-held Senate and Democrat-controlled House would set to work on the question of border security, with the issue of wall financing at the top of their agenda.

“Over the next 21 days, I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith,” said the president – who went on to threaten a new shutdown three weeks from now should Congress refuse to approve the funds.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” he said.

If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government either shuts down on February 15th again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.

Tribute to federal workers

Trump has spoken for weeks about using his presidential authority to declare an emergency on the US border with Mexico in order to fund the controversial project without congressional approval.

After two competing bills to end the partial shutdown failed in the Senate yesterday, lawmakers were urgently scrambling for a fix that would get federal employees back on the job.

Normally paid every two weeks, 800,000 workers missed a second straight paycheck Friday, a situation that has reached a crisis point for thousands of American families.

The urgency was underscored as flight delays rippled across parts of the eastern US due to staffing shortages in airports where employees, including air traffic controllers, have been ordered to work without pay.

Trump – whose administration has been accused of being deaf to the shutdown’s impact – paid tribute to those affected.

“I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers and their amazing families who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship,” he said.

The president went on to reassert that many federal workers had backed him over the shutdown.

“In many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about all our country and about its border security,” he said.

© AFP 2019, with reporting from Stephen McDermott. 

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