US shutdown: Senate rejects bills to re-open government


Federal workers protest in a Senate office building on WednesdayImage copyright
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The US Senate has rejected two bills to end the government shutdown, leaving no end in sight to the record-breaking closure of federal agencies.

The Republican legislation failed by 50-47 and the Democratic bill followed suit by 52-44. Each bill needed 60 votes to move forward.

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal workers missed another payday on Friday.

At 34 days with no end in sight, this is the longest shutdown in US history.

Six Republicans – including former White House candidate and Utah Senator Mitt Romney – voted for the Democratic bill. It would have reopened the government until 8 February.

Only one Democrat backed the Republican measure, which would have provided $5.7bn (£4.4bn) that President Trump wants to build a southern border wall. It would also have temporarily shielded from deportation some US residents who entered the country without documentation as children.

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has faced backlash for remarks about unpaid workers that Democrats have called tone-deaf

Earlier on Thursday, multi-millionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross questioned why unpaid federal workers have been visiting food banks, saying they should just take out a bank loan.

The Democratic leader of the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rebuked Mr Ross, accusing him of a “‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude”.

Ahead of the vote, an Associated Press opinion poll reported that the shutdown has negatively impacted Mr Trump’s approval ratings.

Just 34% of Americans in the survey approved of Mr Trump overall – down from 42% a month earlier. Six out of 10 said the shutdown was mostly his fault. But his approval among Republican voters was close to 80%.

As many essential federal employees continue to work without pay, some former government officials are urging action.

On Thursday, former White House chief of staff John Kelly and four other former homeland security secretaries wrote to lawmakers and the president, calling for the agency to be funded again.

They said it was “unconscionable” that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees were working unpaid on matters of national security.

The letter said: “DHS employees who protect the travelling public, investigate and counter-terrorism and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills.”

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