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As federal workers miss first paycheck of the year, Trump says he has their support

The partial government shutdown has now lasted three full weeks and will become the longest shutdown in U.S. history this weekend. Still, President Trump said he won't yet declare a national emergency to fund his desired border wall. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss public reaction, why the president thinks federal workers back him and the latest activity on Capitol Hill.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The partial federal government shutdown has now dragged on for three full weeks, with no legislative compromise in sight. Even so, President Trump signaled he is not yet ready to declare a national emergency to in order to pay for a wall on the country's southern border.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    No compromise, no payday, that was the reality on day 21 of the government shutdown. With Washington negotiations stalled, hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed their first paycheck since the shutdown began.

    Joanna McCleland has been furloughed from the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency.

  • Joanna McCleland:

    Almost everybody in my office that I have talked to has expressed that they are really worried about their making ends meets. I'm having to defer my student loans. So this is just — it's an untenable situation.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, Congress passed a bill to ensure federal workers get back pay after the shutdown ends. But thousands of private contractors who work on federal projects will not.

    Even if a deal is reached soon, federal workers won't be paid until January 25. That will mean almost a full month without pay. At a jobs fair for furloughed workers in Fairfax, Virginia today, anxiety set in.

  • Chip Love:

    We don't have any idea as to when we're going to be able to start back up, so that makes it very challenging, with the ongoing expenses and all the bills at the keep coming in, and it's a real tough time.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    TSA agents are among the nearly 400,000 federal workers required to work during the shutdown. The Miami International Airport was forced to close a terminal because of agents calling out sick at twice the normal rate.

    Today, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed a lawsuit, saying workers have been unlawfully deprived of pay. Meanwhile, across the country, the shutdown impacts are setting in. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, some rental assistance programs have been suspended.

    At the Department of Agriculture, some farmers have been unable to secure loans or bailout checks meant to alleviate the economic costs of the Trump administration's trade war with China.

    At the White House today, President Trump again said he will not reopen the government unless he gets funding for a border wall.

  • Donald Trump:

    We have a country that is being invaded by criminals and by drugs, and we're going to stop it. The only way to stop it, without question, is with a very powerful wall or steel barrier. Name it what they name it. But we need money for that barrier.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At a roundtable on border security, the president said he is not in a rush to declare a national emergency that would let him use defense funds for the barrier.

  • Donald Trump:

    Congress should do this. If they can't do it, if, at some point, they just can't do it, this is a 15-minute meeting. If they can't do it, I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right to do it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    On Twitter today, the president insisted again that through the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, Mexico will pay for the wall. Mr. Trump claimed that billions of dollars in new trade — quote — "pays for the wall many times over."

    But that is misleading. First, the new trade deal doesn't add new tariffs on Mexican goods, so U.S. trade experts don't expect a sudden increase in money from Mexican exporters. Second, trading is done mostly by private individuals and companies, not the U.S. government.

    Third, Congress has yet to approve the new trade deal, which means it is not currently in effect. On Capitol Hill, President Trump's shutdown strategy is dividing Republicans.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska:

    Shutting down the government is not governing. Nobody is winning in this.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Alaska's Lisa Murkowski is one of a handful of Senate Republicans who say they will support legislation passed by House Democrats to reopen the government piece by piece, without a wall.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska:

    Let's do what we need to do when it comes to ensuring the security of our nation and our borders. Let's navigate those issues. But let's not hold hostage good men and women who are working hard to keep us safe every day through the basic functions of government.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking that effort. He says he won't bring up any bills unless President Trump will sign them. But, as Republicans held firm, so did Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    Spending money on whatever that is that the president is describing it now as is an opportunity cost for doing what we know will work to secure our border, all of our borders.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    With no end in sight, tomorrow, the partial government shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now here in the studio.

    So, Yamiche, as we have been reporting, this is the first time today hundreds of thousands of federal government employees will not get a paycheck. How is the White House addressing this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is telling workers: I feel your pain, I hope you get some help, but, essentially, I am really concerned about this border security and that is my primary concern.

    The president today was asked about whether or not federal workers should be getting some sort of relief, and his answer was: I appreciate the fact that they support what I am doing and they are handling this incredibly well.

    So, the president sees federal workers as backing him. It's important to note that the president did tweet last week or — yes, last week — that most of these federal workers were Democrats. And some people saw that as him politicizing it and saying: I don't care as much about them because they aren't part of my political party.

    The other thing that's important to note, federal agencies are talking to their employees and encouraging them to apply for unemployment benefits. So they're saying, here's how you can get some help.

    One other thing. Local governments are starting to kick in and help federal workers. Food banks are starting to see more federal workers calling in and needing that nutrition.

    One local government in Loudoun County, Virginia, is donating $25,000 to food banks to help federal workers.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's interesting just how widespread the repercussions now are.

    So, Yamiche, at the White House, do you get a sense of how long they think this could go on?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president says that he's in this for the long haul.

    The president today was talking about declaring a national emergency. He said he didn't want to do it too quickly, because that would be the easy way out. He said he wants government — he wants government and Congress to act.

    But I have sources telling me that the White House — the White House has also directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look into using disaster funding money. Now, this would be about $14 billion set aside for states like Texas and Florida that were impacted by hurricanes and national — and natural disasters.

    The president said Republicans are sticking with him, but, on this issue, they are not sticking with it — with him.

    I want to read to you one tweet from Marco Rubio, Florida senator. He says: "I will do everything I can to overturn such a decision."

    So that's really key, because Republican haven't always pushed back on President Trump. But, in this case, they are.

    The other thing to note, White House officials are already gearing up and talking about this shutdown going into February. And they're also — they're also preparing the president's State of the Union speech to talk about the shutdown. And, of course, that State of the Union speech isn't until January 29.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, weeks away from now.

    Yamiche — today being the 11th.

    You were on the border with Texas yesterday, there when the president was there. He again used these arguments that we're facing a crisis, the country is facing a crisis on the border.

    How are they keeping that argument going today?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, the president kept that argument going by holding a roundtable with local officials to talk about border security.

    Some of that information that they were talking about in that roundtable was misleading. One thing that's important to note, the president continues to say that immigrants are pouring in and that a lot of them are criminals.

    I was able to finally confirm today that there are only six people that were suspected to be of terrorists — or to have terrorist ties that were caught at the southern border in the first half of 2018. There were 41 people, 41 suspected terrorists, caught in the northern border with Canada. So that's the border he's not really talking about.

    Add to that the fact that the president has continued to say that there are fake families coming across the border. I was talking to people in McAllen, Texas, where he went yesterday. People say these are not fake families. These are real kids that are hurting and that need support.

    So the president is continuing to say that — there are stereotypes that he's using essentially, that at least people are saying that he's using stereotypes, to talk about immigrants, when, in fact, that's not entirely the case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But only six at the southern border?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Only six at the southern border, 41 at the northern border.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's fascinating.

    Good reporting. Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

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