WASHINGTON (AP/Gray News) — The government shutdown came to an end Friday night, with President Donald Trump signing a bill passed earlier in the evening by Congress to reopen nine federal agencies that had been closed since Dec. 22.
At 35 days long, it was the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
Yielding to mounting pressure and growing disruption, Trump and congressional leaders on Friday reached the short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president’s demands for money to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump announced the agreement to break the impasse as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
"I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," he said from the Rose Garden.
This is being done in two parts, with one bill establishing funding for the agencies that were closed during the shutdown, and another to establish the conference committee which will debate funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border operations.
Senators appointed to that conference committee were Republicans Richard Shelby (AL), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), John Hoeven (ND) and Roy Blunt (MO); and Democrats Patrick Leahy (VT), Dick Durbin (IL) and Jon Tester (MT).
After saying for weeks that he would not reopen the government without border wall money, Trump said earlier in the day he would sign a bill to re-open the government through Feb. 15 without additional money for his signature campaign promise. He said that a bipartisan committee of lawmakers would be formed to consider border spending before the new deadline.
“They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first,” Trump said.
Later, responding to critics saying he had “caved” on the issue of the wall, the president responded on Twitter by saying the deal to reopen the government for three weeks was not a concession.
In his Rose Garden remarks, Trump asserted that a "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution.” 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.
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 authorized to discuss the private talks publicly.
After the president’s announcement, 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” on border security.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, claimed a measured victory in the standoff, which turned into the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
“The president has agreed to our request to open the government and then debate border security, which is great news for 800,000 federal workers and millions of Americans who depend on government services,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “sad it’s taken this long and glad we’ve come to a conclusion today” at a press conference.
Schumer added that he believed a conference committee, between members of both parties from both the House and Senate, can work on legislation in the next three weeks to fund the government through the year and “we can avoid another shutdown.”
Trump threatened that without a “fair deal” from Congress, “the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again,” or he would declare a national emergency in order to deliver funds toward the building of a wall.
He called the 800,000 federal workers who had been furloughed or working without pay since the shutdown began “incredible patriots.”
Despite multiple people coming forth daily to tell of hardships they faced as a result of the partisan standoff, Trump added, “not only did you not complain, but many of you encouraged me to keep going because you are concerned about our country and border security.”
Within the White House there was broad recognition among Trump’s aides Friday that the shutdown pressure was growing and they couldn’t keep the standoff going indefinitely.
The proposed deal came as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the impasse.
LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday.
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 president’s approval numbers had suffered during the impasse, and Republicans were openly calling on him to back down from his demands and reopen the government.
The shutdown began on Dec. 22 at midnight, shuttering nine of 15 federal agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security.
It marked the second shutdown of 2018, roughly 11 months after a two-day shutdown last January. It came unexpectedly.
It appeared, at first, like it might all be avoided. The Senate passed a bill on Dec. 19 to fund the government through February, and with Democratic support it was thought a matter of course to get it passed in the House as well.
Instead, after pressure from conservative lawmakers, media allies and his base, the president declared he would not sign any bill without funds for the wall.
The House went on to pass its own temporary measure, with $5.7 billion included for the wall.
Negotiations between leaders in both chambers fizzled, no agreement was ever struck, and days before Christmas much of the federal government shut down.
Earlier in December, Trump held an Oval Office meeting with Schumer and Pelosi in which he said he would be proud to own the shutdown.
“I will be the one to shut it down,” the president told Schumer. “I’m not going to blame you for it.”
As the shutdown dragged on, however, the president blamed Democrats, blasting them as “obstructionist” in tweets and casting them as unconcerned with border security.
Democrats rejected that the president had any position to bargain from.
The standoff continued weeks into the new year and the new Congress, with the Democrat-controlled House passing bills only to have them blocked in the Senate, where McConnell vowed he would only bring realistic legislation to the floor.
Federal workers, through all of it, bore the brunt of the political maneuvering, missing paychecks and worrying about grocery bills and rent payments. As it wore on, it also began to threaten recipients of critical programs like food stamps and housing subsidies.
The breaking point appeared to finally come Friday, the sight of the nation’s air transportation system struggling under the weight of the shutdown apparently enough to move the president, at least for now.