Representing around a quarter of the federal government, some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since December 22, raising fearsGDP growth could slump to zeroin the March quarter. There have also been widespread warnings about safety at airports, and from agencies such as the FBI that they are being hampered from doing their jobs.
Mr Trump, who walked away before responding to questions from reporters, made no remarks about whether he secured anything from Democrats that he would get $US5.7 billion ($8 billion) for his border wall. Later in the day he said he’ll declare a national emergency if he doesn’t reach a border security deal with Democrats; an unnamed administration official told Reuters that the White House is willing to accept less than $US5.7 billion in funding for the wall.
The backdown, however, is a major political win for Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has maintained throughout that Democrats would not negotiate on border security until Mr Trump reopened the government. The Democrats took over control of the House earlier this month in the wake of election gains in November.
Chuck Schumer, the Democrat Senate minority leader, said the unconditional reopening gives both sides of politics an opportunity to discuss border security without holding hundreds of thousands of workers hostage.
“It’s sad that it’s taken this long to come to an obvious conclusion,” said Ms Pelosi.
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.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter)January 25, 2019
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN that Mr Trump “won on the argument that we need barriers as part of border security plan”.
“I think the shutdown is a vehicle to get it; it didn’t work.”
The longer the partial shutdown has run,the greater the political damagefor Mr Trump, who has seen his disapproval ratings reach record levels, according to some polls.
Mr Trump, who appears to be back at square one on his push for a wall, has laboured to escape the fact he declared before Christmas that he would take responsibility for the shutdown.
The backdown has also enraged those on the right.
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted a short-time after the 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”.
Mr Trump’s friend and sometime campaign stage-mate Sean Hannity said Mr Trump is “fighting a battle of life and death for the nation. What’s Nancy Pelosi fighting for?”
Friday’s breakthrough came after widespread reports of massive delays in flights across America’s northeast because of a shortage of security staff.
Before Trump’s announcement, Democrat Senator Tim Kaine said the airport delays “ratchets up pressure tremendously” to reopen government, saying the developments could prove “very damaging to the American economy”.
It also followed an extraordinary public spray by FBI director Christopher Wray, saying the shutdown has been “mind-boggling….short-sighted…and it’s unfair”.
“It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time,” he said in a public statement to his agents.
Referring to a plan to make an emergency declaration to redirect other government funding to the wall, Mr Trump said he has a “very powerful alternative”, but decided he didn’t want to use it.
“It would be remarkable if Trump then decided to back himself into a similar corner in three weeks’ time and triggered another shutdown,” said analysts at Capital Economics.
“Nevertheless, we could still see further disruptive budget fights over the next few months, particularly as the debt ceiling will need to be raised within the next few months.”
They noted that next week’s first-quarter official US GDP numbers won’t be published because of the shutdown.