World

US lawmakers in bid to end shutdown stalemate

WASHINGTON US lawmakers will launch a last-ditch bid to end a budget impasse before hundreds of thousands of federal workers are forced to start the work week at home with no pay.

The impact of the shutdown that began at midnight on Friday has been largely limited so far, closing sites like New York's Statue of Liberty, but the effect will be acute if the stalemate runs into Monday.

Republicans and Democrats have traded bitter recriminations over who is to blame for the failure to pass a stop-gap funding measure by a Jan 20 deadline, a year to the day Mr Donald Trump took office as US president.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell on Saturday set a key vote for a funding measure for 1am Monday (2pm Monday, Singapore time), with both houses of Congress set to reconvene on Sunday, US time.

"I assure you we will have the vote at 1am on Monday, unless there is a desire to have it sooner," he said in a statement.

At the heart of the dispute is the thorny issue of undocumented immigration.

Democrats have accused Republicans of poisoning chances of a deal and pandering to Mr Trump's populist base by refusing to fund a programme that protects 700,000 "Dreamers" - undocumented immigrants who arrived as children - from deportation.

Mr Trump, in return, has said Democrats are "far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border".

The shutdown's effects, meanwhile, are set to intensify.

Essential federal services and military activity are continuing, but even active duty troops will not be paid until a deal is reached to reopen the US government.

There have been four government shutdowns since 1990. In the last one in 2013, more than 800,000 government workers were put on temporary leave. 
- AFP

WORLD