President Donald Trump conceded Friday to mounting pressure that he reopen the federal government, agreeing to a temporary funding measure that would allow federal employees to return to work but that does not include the billions of dollars in border wall funding he’s spent the past month demanding.
The outcome of the 35-day standoff leaves Trump politically chastened.
Democrats have insisted since December that he sign a measure reopening the government before they sit for talks on border wall funding. After weeks of resistance, Trump agreed to just that on Friday, rendering the past month of stalemate a futile exercise in brinkmanship that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers unpaid and anxious.
With Trump’s signal of support, lawmakers moved quickly to pass spending bills that allowed shuttered federal agencies to reopen. Trump signed a bill passed by the House and Senate to reopen the government Friday night, ending the partial shutdown.
In his Rose Garden remarks, Trump did not appear conciliatory nor did he concede defeat; instead, he continued to paint the matter as a national security crisis and said another shutdown is possible if lawmakers cannot agree to new border wall funding.
“As everyone knows I have a very powerful alternative but I’m not going to use it at this time,” Trump said after declaring he’d struck a deal to reopen government. CNN reported exclusively on Thursday that a national emergency proclamation had been drafted that would allow for potentially billions of federal dollars to be put toward wall construction.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said. “We will have great security.”
Nearly his entire Cabinet and many of his senior advisers had assembled along the Rose Garden colonnade to listen to Trump speak. They offered enthusiastic applause during his speech, which Trump opened by saying he was “very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.”
The measure Trump agreed to would allow federal workers to resume being paid as Democratic and Republican lawmakers convene to discuss the administration’s requests for border security funding. Trump spent the past weeks demanding that any measure reopening the government include $5.7 billion in funding for a barrier on the US-Mexico border, which was a signature campaign promise.
A deal gets struck
But amid mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers and a budding air travel meltdown, Trump yielded to Democrats’ request that government be reopened before the border wall funding issue be debated. The measures being considered by Congress include no new border wall funding.
Democrats emerged proclaiming victory.
“Our unity is our power – and that is maybe what the President underestimated,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol after Trump spoke.
At a White House meeting with Hispanic pastors after announcing the temporary agreement, Trump said he was optimistic a more permanent deal could be reached.
“I think we have a good chance,” he said. “We’ll work with the Democrats and negotiate and if we can’t do that, then we’ll do a – obviously we’ll do the emergency because that’s what it is. It’s a national emergency.”
Polls have shown Trump is receiving the overwhelming blame for the shutdown. The latest Washington Post/ABC poll, released in the moments before Trump spoke on Friday, indicated 53% of respondents blamed Trump and the GOP for the shutdown while 34% blamed Pelosi and the Democrats. About 10% said both are equally responsible.
Inside Trump’s own camp, there appeared to be intense dismay. A Trump adviser offered a pretty stark assessment of what happened on the shutdown.
“A humiliating loss for a man that rarely loses,” the adviser said.
“I miss winning,” the adviser added.
Acknowledging the new political reality with Pelosi in charge of the House, the adviser said the only way forward for Trump is “compromise.”
The adviser went on to question whether Trump will continue to listen to aide Stephen Miller on immigration.