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US government shuts down: 8 lakh staff without pay

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According to reports, the US government began a Christmas-time shutdown early on Saturday, after Congress adjourned without passing a federal spending bill or addressing President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall.

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On Saturday at 12:01 am (5:01 GMT), operations for several key agencies ceased, despite last-ditch talks that continued on Capitol Hill between White House officials and congressional leaders in both parties.

For the construction of a wall on the US border at the Mexico, Trump has dug in on his demand for $5 billion. Apparently, Democrats are staunchly opposed, and the absence of an elusive deal means federal funds for dozens of agencies will lapse when the clock strikes twelve.

Till now, it is unclear how long the shutdown will last, but Trump expressed hope late Friday night that it ‘will not last long’, after earlier saying he was ready for just that.

Reportedly, as many as 800,000 federal employees will be either furloughed or forced to work without pay in the run-up to the Christmas holiday.

Even this prospect, of a large portion of government workers going without paychecks was not enough to spur lawmakers or the president to action.

As of Saturday, almost three-quarters of the government, including the military and the Department of Health and Human Services, is fully funded until the end of September 2019, leaving 25 percent unfunded.

Also most of the NASA employees will be sent home, as will Commerce Department workers and many at the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture and State. National parks stay open, but most park staff will stay home.

The effects of the budget wrangling and uncertainty have cast an air of chaos over the capital, which is also reeling from the resignation announcement Thursday by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, while most critical security functions will be operational.

As reported, Wall Street ended its worst week in a decade with more bruising losses on Friday.

Notably, the inability of Washington to accomplish one of its most basic tasks — keeping the government up and running — has caused deep embarrassment and anxiety.

While blaming the political opponents for the crisis, earlier Trump had said, “It’s up to the Democrats whether or not we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don’t, but we’re totally prepared for a very long shutdown.”

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