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'The mood is quite grim' in D.C. as shutdown drags on

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

President Trump’s scripted prime-time appearance last night did little to pacify a worsening political divide over his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and the government shutdown is heading towards the longest in history.

Delivering his nine-minute speech last night from behind his desk in the Oval Office, Trump appealed for public support for a wall that is “absolutely critical to border security.”

Members of American Legion Post 416 watch President Donald Trump speak on January 8, 2019 in Encinitas, California, as the shutdown drags on. (Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

But the proposed $5.7 billion steel wall to fence the nearly 2,000-mile southern border is facing staunch opposition from House Democrats. And Senate Democrats are also working hard to increase pressure on Republicans to reopen the government by blocking the chamber from looking at bipartisan foreign-policy legislation.

Consequently, the shutdown negotiations are entering a messy phase where political risks and costs increase as more pain is felt across the country.

“Here in D.C., the mood is quite grim,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Economic Analyst, told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. “And even for those who are not directly affected by this shutdown, there is a sentiment [regarding] the diminishment of the value of the federal workforce that really began with the arrival of this administration. And unfortunately, I think that’s something that the president — and even those on the other side of the aisle — don’t fully appreciate.”

As the shutdown drags on, it could become the longest in history. (Graphic: David Foster)

‘Hurting millions of Americans’ as shutdown drags on

The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, has left many workers feeling the pinchwith around 380,000 on leave and 420,000 working without pay. The longest shutdown in American history happened in December 1995 and lasted 21 days.

The shutdown will increasingly strain government agencies that are already forced to use emergency fundsGovernment agencies are impacted in various ways, with trickle-down effects to many in the public, including farmers applying for subsidies, manufacturers hoping to get tariff exemptions from the Commerce Department, Americans applying for federally-backed mortgages, and even craft brewers who can’t get approval from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for new beer labels.

While some critical agencies like the Internal Revenue Service have committed to pay tax refunds despite the shutdown, other agencies from defense to parks to weather agencies are already finding themselves squeezed.

“We’re basically where we were this time yesterday in terms of getting out of this stalemate,” Brookings Fellow Molly Reynolds told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. She later added: “One thing to remember about this president is that he’s constantly changing his mind about what he thinks the optimal strategy is. … That’s what part of what makes it so hard to get out of this shutdown. It’s really hard to negotiate with someone whose position is constantly changing.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an address on border security in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, as the shutdown drags on. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg)

No national emergency?

While reports indicate that Trump was considering declaring a national emergency to circumvent the opposition, no references were made during the address last night, and he stuck to the script that warned of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Trump told the audience. “A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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