- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2019

President Trump announced an agreement Friday to end the longest shutdown in history, conceding to a stopgap plan to reopen the government for three weeks without getting his demand for new border wall funding, handing a victory to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks, until Feb. 15,” Mr. Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.

He said he would ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on the agreement rapidly; Mr. McConnell said the Senate will take action later Friday to end “the pain of this episode.”

SEE ALSO: Trump signs bill to end shutdown, fund government through Feb. 15

The president said the agreement will give congressional negotiators more time to address “in good faith” his demand for more money for a border barrier. The agreement provides a path to a House-Senate conference on funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

After five weeks of rancorous debate with lawmakers in both parties, Mr. Trump said he is convinced both sides “are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first.”

“They have finally acknowledged that having barriers, fences or walls — or whatever you want to call it — will be an important part of the solution,” he said.

But by backing off his demand for new border wall funding as a condition for ending the partial government shutdown, Mr. Trump gave in to Mrs. Pelosi, who has insisted that the government be reopened before negotiating on border security.

With the deal, about 800,000 federal workers will get paid again — at least for now. The measure would also restore employees’ lost pay since the 35-day shutdown began on Dec. 22.

Mr. Trump praised federal workers for enduring five weeks without pay, saying, “You are incredible patriots.”

The agreement is certain to cause political pain for Mr. Trump, whose supporters are overwhelmingly in favor of his push for a border wall. It was a central promise of his campaign in 2016.

Conservative activist Ann Coulter tweeted after Mr. Trump’s announcement, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

In lengthy remarks about crime, illegal immigration and the humanitarian crisis caused by lax border security, Mr. Trump reiterated that he’s not giving up on building more barriers. And he warned that he’s willing to shut down the government again or declare a national emergency after Feb. 15 if there’s no resolution of his request.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” he said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down again on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me by the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

The president again shifted his description of the barriers, emphasizing technology instead of a concrete wall.

“The walls that we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls,” he said. “These barriers are made of steel and have see-through visibility.”

Referring to his threatened action of declaring a national emergency, the president said, “I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time. Hopefully it will be unnecessary.”

Democrats cheered the announcement of the end to the shutdown, which they considered a win in their fight against Mr. Trump.

“I’m pleased President Trump has backed our bipartisan proposal, and I urge my colleagues to vote on the legislation today. We need to end the longest shutdown in our history and get back to the work of the American people,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said she looked forward to “rolling up our sleeves and reaching a long-term agreement to keep the government open.”

“But we can’t keep governing week-to-week,” she said. “The chaos and harm inflicted by this shutdown will have lasting effects – we can’t afford another one.”

The president’s move came a day after the Senate failed to approve his offer, and a competing Democratic proposal, to fund the government. Mr. Trump’s offer would have given temporary legal protection to some undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall.

Mr. Trump’s announcement also came hours after the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted some flights at LaGuardia airport in New York City due to a shortage of air traffic controllers. The action, which was later lifted, caused delays at other major airports and rising anxiety among travelers.

In a rare public statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray told unpaid employees in a video message that he’s “about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time” about the shutdown. He called it “mind-boggling,” “short sighted” and “unfair.”

As the shutdown has dragged on, Mr. Trump’s job-approval ratings have slumped to the lowest of his presidency.

After the Senate’s fruitless votes Thursday afternoon, Mr. McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer engaged in talks to seek a path forward. Mr. Trump had said Thursday he would accept a “prorated down payment” on a wall in any proposal to reopen the government, appearing to back off his request for $5.7 billion.

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