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Trump announces deal to end government shutdown for 3 weeks

Screengrab FRANCE 24

US President Donald Trump on Friday said a deal had been reached on legislation that would reopen the US government through February 15.

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"I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," Trump said in an address from the White House Rose Garden. "In a short while, I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks, until February 15."

While defending his wall project, Trump made no firm announcement regarding his demand for $5.7 billion to fund the border wall -- a key campaign promise to his right-wing base.

Trump said in the meantime a bipartisan committee of lawmakers would meet to discuss the nation's border security needs.

The government closure was in its 35th day on Friday and was threatening the economy as hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed a second paycheck on Friday.

The US Senate rejected two shutdown-ending bills on Thursday.

Trump had been dug in, insisting on funding for a wall he wants to build on the US-Mexico border, while the Democratic-led House of Representatives opposed the wall.

Threatening emergency if no deal is reached

But he hinted that he was still considering taking unilateral action if efforts to come up with money for his wall fail. "I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time," he said.

Trump warned that if he didn’t eventually reach a deal with Democrats on border security, he would declare a state of national emergency.

Declaring an emergency could allow Trump to circumvent Congress and repurpose funds Congress has appropriated for other purposes in order to build a wall.

Delays at major airports

Overnight and into Friday, at least five Republican senators had been calling Trump, urging him to reopen the government and have the Senate consider his request for border wall money through regular legislation, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorised to discuss the private talks publicly.

The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday due to the shutdown. And the world's busiest airport - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.

Trump and the Democrats in Congress had remained at odds over his demand that any compromise include money for his coveted border wall.

Pressure on both sides

The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the "hour of national turmoil" to help senators do "what is right”.

Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.

Democrats in the House had demanded a reopening of the government before any negotiations with Trump and his Republican allies in Congress on border security.

The shutdown had left 800,000 federal workers without pay and struggling to make ends meet, as the effects on government services and the economy reverberate nationwide.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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