US shutdown: Empowered Democrats refuse funds for Trump wall


US President Donald Trump’s signature campaign pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexico border is at stake in a major budget battle this week.

A partial government shutdown is looming on Friday if Congress cannot agree funding for federal agencies.

Newly empowered Democrats are refusing White House demands for $5bn (£3.9bn) towards constructing such a wall.

Mr Trump said last week he would be “proud” to shut down his own government if he does not secure the funding.

The Republican president has been unable to open legislative purse strings for the project, even with his party controlling both the Senate and House of Representatives for nearly two years.

The challenge for him will only get more difficult in January once Democrats formally regain control of the lower chamber of Congress.

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What are both sides saying?

On Sunday, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told CBS Face the Nation that Mr Trump is “absolutely” ready to let a shutdown occur.

“The Democrat Party has a simple choice,” he said. “They can either choose to fight for America’s working class or to promote illegal immigration. You can’t do both.”

On Monday, Mr Trump took to Twitter to attack Democrats who say “you can have good Boarder [sic] Security without a Wall”.

The president has previously requested $25bn for the project.

But in the current spending impasse, Democrats say they are only willing to sign off up to $1.6bn.

But that money could only be used to upgrade existing fencing along the border.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer appeared on NBC Meet the Press on Sunday, and vowed Mr Trump “is not going to get the wall in any form”.

“We should not let a temper tantrum – threats – push us in the direction of doing something that everybody, even our Republican colleagues, know is wrong,” said the New York senator.

What happens in a shutdown?

Funds for border security only constitute a fraction of the $450bn or so that Congress is set to approve to fund federal agencies that will otherwise run out of money on 21 December.

Roughly a quarter of the federal government – including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State, and Justice – will shut down at midnight on Friday if no deal is reached.

The US Postal Service, which is delivering a flurry of packages ahead of Christmas, will not be affected because it is an independent agency.

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Has Trump started building the wall?

Despite repeatedly claiming that construction on the wall is under way, Mr Trump’s long-promised physical barrier has yet to materialise.

The Department of Homeland Security has replaced some old barriers and is erecting fewer than 40 miles of new bollard fencing.

But those barriers bear little resemblance to the wall prototypes unveiled by the president to much fanfare this year and last.

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