WASHINGTON — President Trump and Congress have agreed to a tentative deal to re-open the federal government for 3 weeks while they negotiate a separate agreement about border wall funding, the president announced on Friday afternoon.
“I want to thank the incredible federal workers and their amazing families who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship,” Trump said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden. “You’re fantastic people, you’re incredible patriots — you have suffered harder than anyone [other than your] families would know or understand … but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and its border security,” he said. “In a short while, I will sign a bill to open the government for 3 weeks until Feb. 15th; I will make sure employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible; it will happen fast.”
The speech came after officials at airports in New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Newark announced flight delays due to airport employees calling in sick. The deal, which was expected to be approved shortly by both houses of Congress, would end — at least for now — the 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. It would allow furloughed workers at the FDA and other agencies to come back on the job in addition to restoring paychecks for those who have been working without pay.
During the shutdown, the FDA furloughed about 41% of its workforce, or 7,000 workers. Some were later called back — without pay — including food inspectors for plants that were processing “high-risk” products such as shell eggs and semi-soft cheeses. Also furloughed or ordered to work without pay were employees of the Indian Health Service and the Agriculture Department (USDA), including 11% of USDA’s workers in the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
During his speech, Trump emphasized that the crisis in the border, in addition to being a security issue, was also a medical one. “Nearly 50 migrants a day are being referred for medical assistance; they’re very, very sick, making this a health crisis as well,” he said. “It’s a very big health crisis; people have no idea how big it is unless you’re there.”
Trump concluded his remarks with a warning and a reminder about his desire for a border wall. “Let me be very clear; we really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier. If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15th again, or I’ll use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security.”