Some Trump supporters cheer the shutdown
By WILL WEISSERT
Saturday, January 26
FORT HANCOCK, Texas (AP) — Donald Trump didn’t carry many parts of Texas’ heavily Democratic areas along the border with Mexico, but he won remote Hudspeth County thanks to people like Terry Rose. And the 71-year-old mechanic saw the longest shutdown in U.S. history as a campaign promise kept.
“I want less government. That’s what we’re getting,” said Rose, who was having lunch with a group of friends in Fort Hancock, an enclave with fields of cotton, alfalfa and chili peppers just across the border from El Porvenir, Mexico. “I’m understanding about federal employees, but if you’re ‘non-essential’ it’s hard to feel too badly for you.”
The shutdown — which lasted 35 days and ended Friday with Trump agreeing to fund the government for three weeks — did dramatically shrink the size of government at least temporarily. Funding was cut off for nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments and about 800,000 employees went without pay, nearly half of whom were deemed non-essential and told not to report to work.
Even as it eroded the president’s approval rating, the shutdown energized a segment of the Republican base that has for decades heard GOP presidential hopefuls vow to abolish the IRS and mothball the departments of Education, Energy or Interior or many other agencies, without actually accomplishing anything close. It’s a reminder that should Trump choose a shutdown again, as he threatened Friday, he is likely to have some supporters cheering him on.
But the shutdown didn’t repair a decades-long schism within the Republican Party between conservatives, who would like to see some parts of government contract but don’t mind creating deficits for things like tax cuts and defense spending, and libertarians, whose main goal is to get government out of peoples’ lives almost entirely.
Trump has backed increasing the size of the federal budget, whether to raise military spending or to spend billions walling off the entire U.S.-Mexico border, making him no true champion of small government. Libertarians and fiscal conservatives are also quick to point out that shuttering the government indiscriminately because of political squabbles did nothing to reduce long-term federal spending or have any lasting, meaningful impact on government’s overall size and scope.
Jeffrey Miron, director of economic studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, noted that the shutdown continuing for so long likely will end up costing taxpayers more to make up for lost time as things begin returning to normal.
“This just makes small-government people, and conservatives who claim to be small-government people, look like they’re angry, aggressive, willing to cause people to go without their paychecks,” Miron said.
Rose considers himself a conservative and not a Republican, but concedes he almost always votes GOP. He said he feels for those who missed paychecks: “I don’t want to be mean to them, but it’s really a system that’s overburdened, out of control.”
Gene Henderson, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran and retired Border Patrol agent, agreed that the shutdown was a positive example of small government and predicted it could cement Trump’s 2020 re-election.
“People sent him up there to stop all this stuff and to drain the swamp,” Henderson said of Washington. “And he’ll be sent up there again.”
But Joe Brettell, a Republican strategist in Houston, said the shutdown taught the Trump administration “how widespread and diverse the federal government is.”
“There isn’t a single member of the House that doesn’t have a federal agency in their district,” Brettell said. “As a result, you’ve got members of all stripes taking calls from people facing really dire financial situations.”
It’s hard to get farther away from Capitol Hill than Fort Hancock, a dusty desert town of about 1,800 that feels straight out of 1950s Hollywood Wild West central casting. Trump won the county that encompasses it, Hudspeth, by 179 votes out of fewer than 900 cast in 2016. But much of the rest of Texas’ heavily Hispanic border areas tend to favor Democrats.
Possible 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke hails from neighboring El Paso County, which went for Hillary Clinton by nearly 45 percentage points.
Still, locals have an unusual view of the issue at the center of the shutdown — the border wall — because they can see it literally from two sides. A barrier of towering steel runs through much of town, then stops, giving way to low barbed-wire or, eventually, nothing at all. That means some residents know life with a border wall and others know life without one.
Many Trump supporters here dismiss the notion of building a wall the length of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, but believe Trump was right to hold out for expanding it as much as possible.
Isela Duran, who was part of the construction crew that helped build the Fort Hancock wall about 10 years ago, said she feels for the federal workers who were furloughed so long. “But I think about us over here, too, and keeping ourselves safe.”
The shutdown damaged Trump’s overall approval ratings, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which showed the number of Americans who approve of his performance dropping to 34 percent from 42 percent a month earlier. Among Republicans, however, Trump’s approval rating remained close to 80 percent.
Sitting at Angie’s Restaurant, which specializes in “Mexican and American food,” including burritos and cheeseburgers, Rose said he still pins his hopes on Trump.
“If Trump gets another four years and a Congress that can work with him, we can save the country,” he said. “If not, it will become like Europe. Out of control.”
Economy likely to pick up, though pain may linger for some
By JOSH BOAK
AP Economics Writer
Saturday, January 26
BALTIMORE (AP) — The U.S. economy will likely resume its steady growth now that the government has reopened, though economists say some scars — for the nation and for federal workers — will take time to heal.
Most analysts estimate that the 35-day partial shutdown shaved a few tenths of a percentage point from annual economic growth in the first three month of 2019. They say growth should pick up in the coming months, though some of the money federal workers and contractors didn’t spend in the past five weeks — on such items as movie tickets, restaurants and travel — will never be made up. Having gone without two paychecks, many federal workers were forced to visit food banks or to borrow money. Federal workers will now receive backpay, though some contractors might not.
President Donald Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks after having forced the shutdown in hopes of compelling Democrats to approve billions for a wall on the Mexico border. Trump failed to secure any such money.
During the shutdown, a shortage of airport security and air traffic controllers disrupted travel at such major hubs as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The pressure on Trump to reopen the government intensified Friday after a delay of about 3,000 flights by mid-afternoon because six of 13 air traffic controllers didn’t show up to work at a critical center in Virginia.
S&P Global Ratings estimates that the economy lost $6 billion because of the government closure — a sizable but relatively negligible sum in a $19 trillion-plus U.S. economy.
“If the shutdown had lasted much longer, the economic impacts would have snowballed — travel problems, tax refunds, etc.,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.
Still, the damage isn’t likely to lift immediately. And some federal employees had expressed anxiety during the shutdown about the stability and security of their jobs. The most skilled or talented among them may be likelier to leave government service, a potential problem for an economy already facing worker shortages in some areas.
Job searches by employees at multiple federal agencies jumped during the shutdown, according to clicks tracked by the jobs site Indeed. Employees who had gone unpaid at the Department of Homeland Security, Census Bureau, the IRS and the Transportation Safety Administration were much more likely to be hunting for a new job compared with the past two years of searches.
One lingering risk is if Trump chooses to shutter the government again after the three-week agreement lapses on Feb. 15. Should that occur, it would sabotage consumer confidence and hurt the economy, predicted Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
“It would wipe out confidence,” Zandi said.
AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
Trump ends shutdown, signs bill to reopen government
By JILL COLVIN, LISA MASCARO and ZEKE MILLER
Saturday, January 26
WASHINGTON (AP) — Submitting to mounting pressure, President Donald Trump has signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies go back to work.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden Friday, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a “prompt and orderly manner” and said furloughed employees can return to work.
Trump’s retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
“This was in no way a concession,” Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
The shutdown ended as Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.
“The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn’t, and I hope it’s a lesson for him,” said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: “Our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.”
Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained he might again shut down the government over it. Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, recent polls show.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said.
The president has said he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress doesn’t provide the money. Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.
As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.
“They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first,” Trump said. He asserted that a “barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution.”
The deal includes back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The Trump administration promises to pay them as soon as possible.
Also expected is a new date for the president to deliver his State of the Union address, postponed during the shutdown. But it will not be Jan. 29 as once planned, according to a person familiar with the planning but unauthorized to discuss it.
As border talks resume, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes there will be “good-faith negotiations over the next three weeks to try to resolve our differences.”
Schumer said that while Democrats oppose the wall money, they agree on other ways to secure the border “and that bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement.”
In striking the accord, Trump risks backlash from conservatives who pushed him to keep fighting for the wall. Some lashed out Friday for his having yielded, for now, on his signature campaign promise.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested on Twitter that she views Trump as “the biggest wimp” to serve as president.
Money for the wall is not at all guaranteed, as Democrats have held united against building a structure as Trump once envisioned, preferring other types of border technology. Asked about Trump’s wall, Pelosi, who has said repeatedly she won’t approve money for it, said: “Have I not been clear? No, I have been very clear.”
Within the White House, there was broad recognition among Trump’s aides that the shutdown pressure was growing, and they couldn’t keep the standoff going indefinitely. The president’s approval numbers had suffered during the impasse. Overnight and Friday, several Republicans were calling on him openly, and in private, to reopen the government.
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 because of 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.
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.”
Senators were talking with increased urgency after Thursday’s defeat of competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats. Bipartisan talks provided a glimmer of hope Friday that some agreement could be reached. But several senators said they didn’t know what to expect as they arrived to watch the president’s televised address from their lunchroom off the Senate floor.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan Thursday reopening the government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he’s demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he’d long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. But it earned more support than Trump’s plan, even though Republicans control the chamber 53-47. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to government workers who are either working without pay or being forced to stay home.
Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh reality confronting many of the federal workers, who on Friday faced a second two-week payday with no paychecks.
Throughout, the two sides issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump had refused to reopen government until Congress gave him the wall money, and congressional Democrats had rejected bargaining until he reopened government.
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Colleen Long, Matthew Daly, Laurie Kellman and Juliet Linderman contributed to this report.
Conservatives say Trump caved, but confident he’ll get wall
By DEB RIECHMANN and STEVE PEOPLES
Sunday, January 27
WASHINGTON (AP) — No retreat, no surrender is how President Donald Trump frames his decision to temporarily reopen the government while still pursuing a border wall deal.
Some of his conservative backers have a different take: “pathetic” and “wimp.”
Other Trump supporters seem willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, yet they insist that any ultimate government funding deal the president signs must include money for a wall.
Trump defended himself Saturday from the conservative backlash to his decision to end the 35-day-old partial government shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — without money for his promised border wall. He said if he didn’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government would shut down again on Feb. 15 or he would use his executive authority to address what he has termed “the humanitarian and security crisis” on the southern U.S. border.
After he announced his decision, a New York newspaper headline dubbed him “CAVE MAN.”
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, a big wall supporter, called Trump the “biggest wimp” ever to occupy the Oval Office. A conservative news outlet, Breitbart, dubbed Trump’s announcement on Friday a “short-term surrender to Democrats.”
Trump insists he didn’t cave to anyone and said the standoff with Democrats was far from over.
“Negotiations with Democrats will start immediately,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Will not be easy to make a deal, both parties very dug in. The case for National Security has been greatly enhanced by what has been happening at the Border & through dialogue. We will build the Wall!”
Earlier, Trump tweeted: “This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
In California for a meeting of the Koch political network, Trump supporter and Koch donor Doug Deason of Texas said he was “severely disappointed” that the president agreed to reopen the federal government. Deason said he wanted Trump to go “nuclear” and keep the government closed as a way to cut the number of federal workers and would have preferred if Trump had used emergency funding to pay essential workers.
“We hired him to go shake up DC. We didn’t hire him to maintain the status quo,” said Deason, a member of the finance committee of America First Action, the only sanctioned pro-Trump super PAC.
While some of Trump’s backers have lobbed insults at the president, others are willing to give him more time to negotiate.
“I’m a pragmatist. I understand when you’re fighting a battle like this you have to do what’s necessary to keep certain parts of the government moving,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a Trump confidant. “I think you have to do things like this to achieve a greater goal in the end. I believe that’s what he’s doing.”
Falwell encouraged Trump to declare a national emergency if Democrats haven’t agreed to wall funding by the time the current deal expires.
Another evangelical leader with Trump’s ear, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, said the president was smart to end the shutdown, even if some conservatives are angry.
“In this Round 1, the president was the one who appeared to be the more reasonable one. He was willing to negotiate and willing to compromise,” Perkins said. “There is wisdom here in what he did.”
Yet Perkins, like other more forgiving Trump supporters, acknowledged that the president must ultimately craft a deal that includes funding for the border wall.
Dan Stein, the president of a hardline immigration group called Federation for American Immigration Reform, put the onus on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who pledged to negotiate once the government was reopened. “The ball is now in Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s court,” Stein said.
In many ways, Trump’s announcement in a chilly Rose Garden on Friday and the subsequent conservative backlash was a rerun of last month’s theatrics in the political standoff.
In December, when Trump offered signals that he might be willing to back off his threat to shut down the government over funding for a wall, conservative allies and pundits accused him of waffling on his campaign promise. Rattled by criticism from his own supporters, the president told House Republican leaders he would not sign a short-term government funding measure because it didn’t include money for the wall.
At the time, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., cheered Trump for digging in his heels, saying that the time to fight the fight for a wall had arrived. This time, Meadows backed the president’s decision and warned: “Executive action is still very much under consideration.”
But California-based conservative leader Mark Meckler, who helped found the tea party movement, called the president’s decision to sign off on a deal without wall funding “pathetic and disgusting.”
Trump badly damaged his credibility with grassroots conservatives across the country, Meckler said. During the shutdown, he said he and other conservative leaders had been aggressively defending the president’s hardline approach. At the request of the White House, he said they made repeated media appearances, but they got no warning he was about to “surrender.”
“No way would I go on the radio anytime again in the future and say ‘The president’ and ‘I believe,’” Meckler said. “Certainly, he did not fulfill his promise to the base and I’m appalled. More importantly than me is what I’m hearing from the grassroots. They’re appalled.”
“He brought his troops on the battlefield with an absolute promise. And then he walked away,” he said. But he added that he didn’t think it would prompt his supporters to vote for Democratic candidate over Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Peoples contributed from New York. Associated Press writer Sally Ho in Indian Wells, California, contributed to this report.