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Hundreds of thousands to miss payday as US shutdown continues

UP TO 800,000 workers will not be paid tomorrow on the first payday since the United States government shutdown began on December 22.

The grim milestone comes ahead of a weekend that will see the shutdown become the longest in US history if agreement between Congress and President Donald Trump cannot agree on a budget deal.

There was scant sign of that, with Mr Trump boasting on Twitter that he had walked out of a meeting with the Democrat leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives — Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi — almost immediately after they repeated that they were not prepared to support the construction of his planned wall on the Mexican border.

The president described the meeting as a “waste of time.”

He tweeted: “I said ‘bye bye’.”

The impasse has seen 25 per cent of government agencies close, with staff locked out or working unpaid. 

National Parks are closed, litter is not being cleared and food stamps and free school lunches will stop being issued from next month, despite the lower house passing a Bill to ensure they would be.

The president is refusing to sign it into law unless he is granted $5.7 billion (£4.5bn) for the wall along the Mexican border.

The Environment Agency, Agriculture, Interior and Transportation departments are not running. Mr Trump has been forced to deny his campaign trail pledge that Mexico would pay for the wall to justify his need for the money, saying he had never meant it would “write out a cheque.”

Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has demanded that Congress salaries be stopped until a budget can be passed so lawmakers feel the same pain as federal employees.

“If the GOP [grand old party, a nickname for the Republicans] wants a wall so badly they can try to propose and pass a Bill like anyone else,” she stormed. “Instead they are seizing government operations and innocent people’s pay.”

AFL-CIO union federation president Richard Trumka accused the president of “holding US workers hostage.”

After past shutdowns have been resolved directly employed public servants have usually been paid for the missing weeks, but this requires an Act of Congress itself and does not apply to contracted-out workers.

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