Trump Announces Temporary End to Shutdown, Back Pay for Federal Workers

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Jan 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Jan 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump on Friday announced plans to reopen the federal government after thirty-five days of a shutdown with a promise to work with both Democrats and Republicans over the next few weeks for greater border security.

The president, speaking from the White House Rose Garden Friday, lauded the "extraordinary devotion" of federal employees the past few weeks who "suffered far greater than anyone."

"You are very very special people. When I say 'Make America Great Again' it could not be done without you," he said.

About 800,000 federal workers had been furloughed or forced to work without pay, including some 50,000 active-duty, Reserve and civilian members of the Coast Guard.

Trump announced he would sign legislation that would open government until Feb. 15 to make time to reach a border security compromise. He also said he'd sign legislation to give all federal employees back pay to make up for lost compensation since the shutdown began in December.

"I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible. It'll happen fast," Trump said.

The president did not waver, however, from his months-long pursuit of a border wall, adding that he would pursue further negotiations with lawmakers to see barriers constructed.

"It's just common sense. Walls work," Trump said. "The walls we are building are not Medieval walls. They are smart walls...and are operationally effective," he added.

The new "deal" did not include payment for a border wall. Funding for the wall has been at the center of the budget impasse; Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for the wall as part of a budget agreement, along with other funding for homeland security. Trump on Friday said over the next three weeks, negotiations with both parties will continue to execute appropriate border security.

"This an opportunity for all parties to work together for our whole, beautiful wonderful nation," he said.

"Walls should not be controversial," he added.

Trump said if a deal is not reached in 21 days' time, he will look to declare a national emergency.

"We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall," he said, without disclosing how the wall would be funded.

"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15 again or I would use the powers according to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency," Trump said.

On Thursday, CNN reported Trump had not ruled out the possibility of using Defense Department funding for its construction.

Acting Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist in recent weeks said that the Pentagon has negotiated its top line budget figure. Norquist did not disclose the amount, according to Defense News.

It is unknown if the latest DoD budget will include figures for the wall, or whether the latest negotiations could upend the release of the 2020 defense budget request.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @Oriana0214.

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