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US House votes to reopen some agencies shut down in wall fight

WASHINGTON: The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives voted on Friday to restore funding for federal agencies that have been shut down by a fight with President Donald Trump over border wall funding, as some 800,000 government workers, from tax collectors to FBI agents, missed their first paycheck.

The House bill, which passed 240-179 with only a handful of Republicans supporting it, would restore funding for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, two of the agencies that have been without funding since Dec 22 amid the standoff over the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border.

Facing the prospect of the longest US government shutdown in history, Trump has said he might declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get funding for his wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.




Entering its 21st day, the partial shutdown on Friday tied the record for the longest in US history. Some 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out on Friday. Some have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online fundraising outlets to help pay their bills.

With no Capitol Hill compromise in sight, Trump publicly ruminated on Thursday during the Texas trip about declaring an emergency.

A close Trump confidant judged the time for such a step had come. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement: “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works.”

Critics of the national emergency strategy have said it may be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent Congress’ power over the national purse strings.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019

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