US government shuts down after Congress fails to pass federal spending bill

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US government shuts down after Congress fails to pass federal spending bill

WASHINGTON - The United States government began a Christmas 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.

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

Trump has dug in on his demand for $5 billion for construction of a wall on the US border with Mexico.

Democrats are staunchly opposed, and the absence of an elusive deal means federal funds for dozens of agencies lapsed when the clock struck midnight on Friday.

The shutdown is the third this year and it remained unclear how long it would last. Trump expressed hope late Friday night that it "will not last long," after earlier saying he was ready for just that.

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

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

The House of Representatives adjourned just before 7 pm on Friday, with no moves taken to avert a shutdown, and the Senate closed up shop an hour later.

Both are due back in session at noon on Saturday.

About 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 as of Saturday.

Most 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 will remain open, but most park staff will stay home. - APP / AFP

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