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Top Trump aide says government shutdown may go into New Year when new Congress convenes

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More than 400,000 "essential" employees in key government agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be put on temporary leave.

Washington

US President Donald Trump's budget director and chief of staff on Sunday said the partial US government shutdown could continue until Jan 3, when the new Congress convenes and Democrats take over the House of Representatives.

"It's very possible this shutdown will go beyond Dec 28 and into the new Congress," Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday.

"I don't think things are going to move very quickly here for the next few days because of the Christmas holiday," added Mr Mulvaney, who serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget and was named acting White House chief of staff 10 days ago.

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The US Senate adjourned on Saturday, unable to break an impasse over Mr Trump's demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico that Democrats are unwilling to accept.

Mr Mulvaney said the White House made a "counter-offer" to Democrats on funding for border security that fell between the Democratic offer of US$1.3 billion and Mr Trump's demand for US$5 billion.

As part of those talks last Saturday, Vice-President Mike Pence offered to drop the demand for US$5 billion for a border wall, substituting instead US$2.1 billion, ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources.

A Democratic source familiar with the negotiations said real discussions have been happening between Democratic lawmakers and Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who has been talking to the White House. It was unclear what Democrats had offered.

Mr Mulvaney sought to shift blame for the partial shutdown to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic nominee for speaker of the US House of Representatives, saying she might hold up negotiations to ensure she secures the position.

"I think she's in that unfortunate position of being beholden to her left wing to where she cannot be seen as agreeing with the president on anything until after she is speaker," Mr Mulvaney said. "If that's the case, again, there's a chance we go into the next Congress."

A spokesman for Ms Pelosi, Drew Hammill, disputed that account and said: "As Mr Mulvaney well knows, House Democrats are united in their opposition to the president's immoral, expensive and ineffective wall."

The White House should "stop the posturing and start serious bipartisan talks", Mr Hammill said.

Financing for about a quarter of federal government programmes - including the departments of homeland security, justice and agriculture - expired at midnight last Friday.

More than 400,000 "essential" employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be "furloughed", meaning they will be put on temporary leave. Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.

Building a wall to try to prevent migrants from entering the United States illegally was a central plank of Mr Trump's presidential campaign, but Democrats are vehemently opposed and have rejected his funding request.

Mr Trump reiterated his push for border security on Sunday, saying on Twitter that "the only way" to stop drugs, gangs and human trafficking at the border was with a wall or barrier. REUTERS