House Speaker asks Trump to delay state of the union speech amid government shutdown
Longest such shutdown in U.S. history has dragged into its 26th day
The U.S. economy is taking a larger-than-expected hit from the partial government shutdown, White House estimates show, as contractors and even the coast guard go without pay, and talks to end the impasse seem stalled.
The longest such shutdown in U.S. history has dragged into its 26th day with neither President Donald Trump nor Democratic congressional leaders showing signs of bending on the topic that triggered it — funding for a wall Trump promised to build along the border with Mexico.
Trump insists that Congress shell out $5.7 billion for wall funding this year, as about 800,000 federal workers go unpaid during the partial shutdown. He has refused to support legislation providing money for a range of agencies to operate until he gets the wall funds.
With the shutdown dragging on, federal courts will run out of operating funds on Jan. 25 and face "serious disruptions" if the shutdown continues, according to a court statement.
Adding to the pressure, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on Trump to delay his state of the union address.
In a letter to Trump, she cited security concerns, noting that both Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security are affected by the partial government shutdown. Pelosi said unless the government reopens this week, they should find another date or Trump should deliver the address in writing.
To try to take some of the sting out of the shutdown, Trump planned to sign on Wednesday the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, which is legislation that would ensure that those federal workers furloughed will receive backpay once the shutdown is over.
The Internal Revenue Service said it planned to bring more than 46,000 furloughed workers back to their jobs as the agency enters its peak season of processing tax returns and refunds.
Trump invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers for lunch to discuss the standoff, but the White House said Democrats turned down the invitation. Nine House of Representatives Republicans, none of whom are involved in party leadership, attended.
One attendee, John Katko, told CNN that Trump "wanted to continue to engage in negotiations." He did not mention any new proposals Trump might pursue.
House Democratic leaders said they did not tell members to boycott Trump's lunch, but had pressed those invited to consider whether the talks would be merely a photo op for Trump.
Separately, a bipartisan group of senators explored solutions. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican participant, told reporters in a Capitol hallway that the group had "momentum," but gave no details.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democratic participant, said: "Anything can be part of the negotiations."
Lawmakers were supposed to be in their districts and states next week after Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but the House and Senate planned to cancel the recess if the shutdown persists.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she was working with the White House and Congress to pass legislation to fund the Coast Guard. While the Pentagon is not affected by the shutdown, the coast guard budget is part of Nielsen's department.
Like the other branches of the U.S. military, active duty <a href="https://twitter.com/USCG?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USCG</a> should be paid for their service and sacrifice to this nation. I’m working with the <a href="https://twitter.com/WhiteHouse?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WhiteHouse</a> and Congress to pass legislation to fund the <a href="https://twitter.com/USCG?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USCG</a> now.—@SecNielsen
The Trump administration had initially estimated the shutdown would cost the economy 0.1 percentage point in growth every two weeks that employees were without pay.
But on Tuesday, there was an updated figure: 0.13 percentage point every week because of the impact of work left undone by 380,000 furloughed employees as well as work left aside by federal contractors, a White House official said.
Costs adding up
The economic risk prompted hawkish Federal Reserve officials to call for the central bank to pause interest rate hikes.
The shutdown's effects have begun to reverberate across the country.
Longer lines have formed at some airports as more security screeners fail to show up for work.
Speaking on CNBC, Delta Air Lines Inc chief executive officer Ed Bastian said the partial shutdown would cost the airline $25 million in lost revenue in January because fewer government contractors are travelling.
Food and drug inspections have been curtailed, but about 400 U.S. Food and Drug Administration staffers returned to work, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. They focus on high-risk medical devices, drugs and food.
Democrats, who took over the House this month, have rejected the border wall but back $1.3 billion in other border security measures this year. They have insisted the government be fully open before negotiations occur.
House Democrats have passed a number of bills to end the shutdown, but Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said the chamber will not consider anything Trump would not sign into law.
With files from The Associated Press