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Thousands of federal employees went to work Monday for the first time since before Christmas. The 35-day partial government shutdown ended Friday after President Trump signed an agreement to fund closed government agencies for three weeks, while Congress continues to negotiate over border security. But will that be enough? Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Amna Nawaz with the latest.
Federal agencies are back in business, but it's unclear if the shutdown is gone for good. The doubts were underscored today by President Trump and his aides.
The government has been open for just three days, and the White House is preparing for the next spending deadline in mid-February.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
The president doesn't want to go through another shutdown. That's not the goal. The goal is border security and protecting of the American people.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees were back at work today for the first time since before Christmas.
I'm just very thankful to be back at work, thankful for my job. I have been through three of these, in 2011, and 2013, and then this one.
Those workers are expected to receive back pay by the end of this week. The 35-day shutdown ended Friday night when President Trump signed a deal to reopen the government, but only temporarily.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is now tasked with crafting a border security funding agreement that will get Mr. Trump's signature by February 15. The president has insisted on funding for a physical barrier. And in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said he'd give the lawmakers less than a 50/50 chance of successfully writing that legislation.
If those talks fail, President Trump said Friday he is willing to shut down the government again. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney echoed that warning Sunday.
Is the president really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?
Yes, I think he actually is. Keep in mind, he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border.
Democrats say the short-term spending bill gives both parties time to negotiate and prevent another funding stalemate in three weeks.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters at a Sunday press conference he doesn't foresee a February shutdown.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:
I think another shutdown is very unlikely. I think President Trump touched a very hot stove, threatening and using a shutdown to try to get his way. And Americans didn't like it. I don't think he will try it again.
The next phase of talks comes as the economic impact of the longest ever shutdown becomes clearer. Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall today called it a permanent loss of $3 billion.
Once the government is back in place, federal workers begin to work again, we think there will be a fairly quick recovery from that. There is a permanent loss, however. You lose the government output for five weeks, that's never made up.
The bipartisan border security talks are set to begin on Wednesday.
This evening, we learned House Speaker Pelosi spoke to President Trump, followed by a formal letter to set the date for the State of the Union address next Tuesday, February 5.
We turn now to our own congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, and White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
Welcome to you both.
Lisa, it's worth reminding people, that last State of the Union was delayed because of the border wall fight that ended in the shutdown. They want to avoid that from happening again. How are they doing that?
Well, we're going to have this conference committee that you mentioned in your report. And let's break down how this is going to work.
It's 17 members of Congress, the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat. It's very interesting to look at where these very critical members live. Let's look at their home states.
A map shows that they're disproportionately actually from the East Coast, with a few of them scattered through the West. Now, I went through and broke down where they're from even more specifically. Let's look at the faces of who's on this committee, and then you see them, senators and House members.
Now, of all of those, 17 members, a total of five of them live on — in southern border states. So those five members, they're all House members as well, no senators that live in southern border states.
Now, one represents an actual border area. That is a congressman from Texas whose district borders with Mexico. Now, of this, nine are Democrats, eight Republicans, advantage Democrats there. On this conference committee, there are three Hispanics.
I know that's a lot of numbers. But I crunched the average on that distance from these members' areas to the border. It's about 800 miles. So these are not members who live, most of them, near the southern border. However, most Americans don't as well.
Now, we will see the conference committee meet on Wednesday for the first time. I'm expecting that to just be for show. They will give their opening remarks. Then I believe negotiations will go behind closed doors.
So, Yamiche, over to you on those negotiations.
Do we know that the president is going to play any role in those talks?
Well, the president is looking at this committee as really a road to getting his border wall funding.
Today, at the White House, we had a rare thing, which was a White House press briefing. It was their first one since December 18. And at that briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the president hasn't given up on his wanting a border wall funding.
She said that this is just the — his way of trying to give Congress and legislators a chance to work on that. But it's not clear whether or not the president is going to be hands-on.
After the briefing, I had a conversation with a White House official, and that person said that the White House is still trying to figure out the role that President Trump should play in this. It's really key, of course, that the president needs to sign off on whatever deal the committee comes up with, because, at the end of the day, he's the person at the center of this who will either sign a bill or who will declare a national emergency if it comes to that.
And they hope — they want to avoid another shutdown too.
And, Lisa, we're now getting a look back at what this last shutdown actually cost us. What do we know?
Your report mentioned this. And I want to underscore exactly what the Congressional Budget Office came out with today in its report.
They concluded two things, one, that this shutdown actually has a temporary economic loss to the country of $8 billion. They say that will be made up as salaries are given back, workers get their pay back, hopefully this week, as Yamiche has been reporting.
But there's a permanent economic loss to this country of $3 billion. That will not be made up. That number is significant for a couple of reasons, not least of which, Amna, is the fact that the president was asking for $6 billion for his wall.
Well, the country's lost $3 billion already in this first shutdown. And one other thing. That effect is lopsided. Places like Washington, D.C., and even North Dakota, which have higher percentages of federal workers, felt that loss more than other areas.
So, Yamiche, over to you now.
The president ran on a strong economy, constantly hails how strong the economy is. How are they responding to this hit to the economy because of the shutdown?
Well, the White House's official stance is that the Congressional Budget Office is wrong, and that the White House is keeping on the table this idea that a shutdown could actually happen.
So, Larry Kudlow, who is a top economic adviser at the White House, today, he came out and said, the Congressional Budget Office is — quote — "guesstimating," and they're not sure whether or not he — they can actually put out those numbers.
He said that there was no permanent damage to the U.S. economy, and that, in fact, the economy is doing well, that it will snap back, and that this is — the shutdown was — in fact, it's a small, temporary thing that happened.
Now, the president himself is again leaving the door open that there could be another shutdown in three weeks. The White House press secretary today, Sarah Sanders, said that he doesn't want any path for citizenship for immigrants. He also wants to try to get the full $5.7 billion.
And the president, even though he wants — or has been dangling this idea of declaring a national emergency, there are a lot of Republicans who are signaling to the president that they don't want him to do that.
So we will just have to see where this goes.
Lisa, very quickly, the president said we could be back in a shutdown if history is a guide.
Well, if you look at history, actually, shutdowns in which workers were sent home for significant amounts of time almost always end in another short-term bill, and then not another shutdown.
The party that leverages and tries to get something out of the shutdown never gets it, and usually doesn't want another shutdown. We will see if President Trump is an exception to that rule. But that's what history says is most likely.
History is a guide then. Three weeks to go. We will see what happens.
Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, good to talk to you both.
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