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ALMOST two million US civil servants went without pay today after Congress failed to agree a budget.
However, just as the Star went to press last night, it appeared that the Senate had passed a short-term funding Bill to cover spending until February 8, after extracting a promise from Republican leaders to address the fate of people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) scheme.
Democrats want the Obama-era scheme, which protects almost 700,000 people brought to the US illegally as children from deportation, to be extended.
They also want guaranteed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Programme and for caps on domestic and military spending to be lifted.
President Donald Trump said last year that he would scrap the Daca scheme and gave Congress until March 5 before he begins deportations.
The crisis was a repeat of the October 2013 congressional standoff initiated by Republicans against Barack Obama’s second administration, during which the federal government went unfunded for 16 days.
In a statement at the weekend, American Federation of Government Employees president David Cox blamed both parties in Congress and the White House for the crisis.
“Congress and the administration have only themselves to blame for failing to keep the federal government open,” he said.
“This shutdown is a direct result of lawmakers continuing to punt the ball instead of having the courage to make the tough decisions that we elected them to do.”
Mr Cox said 850,000 federal employees were set to report to work today only to be sent home, while at least a million more would be forced to work without pay until a solution is found.
“In a government shutdown, it is the American people who pay the price,” he warned, pointing out that the 2013 shutdown had cost US taxpayers $24 billion (£17bn).
Hundreds of cancer patients were prevented from enrolling in clinical trials, 6,300 children from the poorest families were denied access to education, health and nutrition programmes, and 1,400 workplace health and safety inspections were cancelled, he said.
But American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten pinned the blame for the current crisis squarely on Republicans, saying: “This shutdown is happening because Trump seems to want it.”
Mr Weingarten said it was the first time in history the government faced a shutdown when one party controlled both houses of Congress and held the presidency.
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