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Trump close to breaking the record for longest government shutdown

4 minutes ago | US & Canada Trump close to breaking the record for longest government shutdown By Jan van der Made – RFI ©REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Saturday, the Trump administration will have broken the record for the longest government shutdown ever. He takes over the helm from the Clinton administration, that faced an 21-day shutdown over budget issues.

This Friday, some 800, 000 government employees didn't get paid and the standoff between Trump and the House-majority of Democrats continues.

President Donald Trump has again threatened to declare a national emergency along the border with Mexico as he seeks funding for a wall he says will keep out dangerous immigrants.

Opposition Democrats are refusing to approve $5.7 billion needed for the wall. They say that most illegal immigrants do not commit serious crimes and that Trump is mainly promoting the project to satisfy his right-wing base.

Federal employees can't do much: according to the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, they are legally prohibited from striking. That law was introduced to prevent potentially economy-crippling strikes in the public sector, but may not have foreseen a scenario where the government would demand its employees to work without paying.

At the end of December, the Department of Homeland Security sent around sample letters to agencies such as the US Coastguard to their employees to be used if they need to ask creditors to pay later. "… some of our employees may have difficulty in timely meeting their financial obligations,” the letter reads.

“We appreciate your organization's understanding and flexibility toward DHS employees until this situation is resolved … we extend our thanks for your patience and compassion towards our employees during this time …”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Trump, accompanied by unpaid Secret Service agents, visited the border at McAllen, Texas. At a border patrol station he had a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security and got a briefing.

However, he said,he had doubts that his appearance and remarks would change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that's been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

Sitting between border patrol officers, local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted that he was “winning” the shutdown fight.

McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

Nearby, hundreds of protesters were chanting and waving signs opposing a border wall next to the South Texas airport where Trump was set to arrive.

Across the street, a smaller group of protesters shouted back, chanting, “Build that wall!”

And in Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work and receive their paychecks.

National emergency
Speaking to Fox News in an interview broadcast Thursday evening, Trump reiterated he had "the absolute right to declare a national emergency."

But when asked when it would take place, he answered that he would "see what happens" over the coming days.

Analysts say the declaration would likely be challenged as a case of presidential overreach, which means the wall could still face being blocked.

National emergencies were invoked five times since the end of World War 2: during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979; the US embargo against Nicaragua in 1985; the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1998; the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Towers, and during an outbreak of the swine flu under President Obama in 2009.

The extreme measure would give Trump political cover with his base by showing he'd done what he could to build the wall.

At that point, Trump could end the shutdown and declare a win.

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