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The Latest On The Government Shutdown Standoff


Today in Washington, President Trump and Vice President Pence laid a wreath at the memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. The president also issued a proclamation urging all Americans to recommit themselves to the late civil rights leader's dream of equality and justice for all. Federal offices are closed today in honor of Dr. King.

And of course many government offices were already closed for weeks because of a political standoff. The president is demanding that Congress approve money for his border wall. Congressional Democrats have been unwilling to do that. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now with the latest on the shutdown. Welcome, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So this week, the Senate is expected to take up a proposal that the president made over the weekend. It would provide wall funding in exchange for limited protection for certain classes of immigrants. Tell us more about it.

HORSLEY: Yes, this proposal, which the president spelled out in an address on Saturday, what he billed as a major announcement, would offer a temporary reprieve from deportation to DACA recipients - that is the young people who were brought to the country as children - as well as several hundred thousand people from Central America and Haiti who have been living in the U.S. under what's called temporary protected status. Now, under Trump's plan, those folks would be allowed to remain in the country for three years.

And in exchange, the president's asking for the full $5.7 billion he's been seeking for his border wall. That would be enough to fund about 230 miles of border barrier. Now, even before the president spoke on Saturday, Democrats had rejected this proposal. But Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said on ABC's "This Week" Democrats really ought to give this a second look at least as an opening offer.


JAMES LANKFORD: The vote this week in the Senate is not to pass the bill. It is to open up and say, can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes? Let's find a way to be able to get the government open because there are elements in this that are clearly elements that have been supported by Democrats strongly in the past.

HORSLEY: Now, Democrats point out that the president's proposal does not include, for example, a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, which is something they've supported in the past. What's more, they say this is just a three-year reprieve, and it only restores protection that was already in place until that the president decided to rescind DACA. So for Democrats, that's not good enough to justify spending on the president's border wall.

CORNISH: So what are Democrats doing?

HORSLEY: Well, this week, Audie, the Democratic House is expected to vote on its own proposals to reopen shuttered parts of the government and provide some additional funding for border security but not for the president's border wall. The Democrats want to demonstrate that their opposition to the wall does not mean they are against border security in general even though that's something the president has tried to paint them as.

The Democrats' basic position throughout this shutdown has been, we are not going to negotiate until the government is reopened. Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia was on "Meet The Press" this weekend. He said, step one should be recalling furloughed federal employees and making sure those who are already on the job don't miss another paycheck.


MARK WARNER: I don't think we give our federal employees enough benefit. Five weeks now without pay - they're still showing up to work. They're working overtime. How many of the folks in the studio would come to work this morning if they'd gone five weeks without pay?

HORSLEY: We are well into the fifth week of this shutdown, Audie. And if it's not fixed pretty soon, federal workers are set to miss their second consecutive payday this coming Friday.

CORNISH: Now, this is obviously causing considerable hardship for those workers who are affected - right? - and their families. Is there a sense yet of what it means for the broader economy?

HORSLEY: The longer it goes on, the deeper the impact. The chief White House economist has said it shaving about one-tenth of 1 percentage point off of economic growth for every week the shutdown continues. That means by the end of this week, we will have given up a full half percentage point of GDP. Some of that could be made up when federal workers get backpay, as they are promised.

But some of that economic activity, Audie, is just gone for good. Certainly that's true for all of the non-government businesses that are losing money on the sidelines of this shutdown - you know, restaurants that cater to federal workers or to tourists visiting government museums, that sort of thing. What's more, this record-setting shutdown does not exactly inspire confidence that the federal government will be able to deal with any real challenge that might come from the outside as opposed to problems that the government is creating for itself.

CORNISH: In the meantime, can you talk about that visit the president made to the memorial for Martin Luther King Jr.? I mean, last year this time, the president was mired in a fair bit of controversy around issues of race.

HORSLEY: Well, and those haven't really gone away. This was a low-key event. It was not on the president's public schedule. But he and the vice president made a very quick trip to the King memorial, which is not far from the White House. And the president did issue that proclamation in which he said that while there has been progress, there is still a lot of work to do in this country to achieve racial justice.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.