President Donald Trump had a message Tuesday for Democrats counting on him to relent in the Washington arm wrestle blocking funds to swaths of the government for a record 32 days: "No Cave!" Trump's defiant tweet again blamed congressional Democrats for the chaos, insisting he will not lift his shutdown on federal government funding unless they approve his $5.7 billion plan for more walls along the US-Mexican border. "Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security...The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly," Trump tweeted.
Trump triggered a partial government shutdown on December 22 -- refusing to sign off on funding everything from FBI salaries to national park services -- as a way of pressuring the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives to back the wall project. But with Democrats refusing to give in and Trump sticking to his hardball tactics, political paralysis in Washington has morphed into growing day-to-day pain across the country as some 800,000 federal employees adjust to life without salaries.
Trump's main opponent, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, was adamant on Tuesday that the president is to blame. "#EndTheShutdown now," she tweeted.
Pelosi, speaker of the Democrat-led House, argues that border security funding cannot even be discussed before the shutdown ends, accusing Trump of "holding Americans hostage".
Extending the existing border fences has been at the top of Trump's domestic agenda since his 2016 campaign.
Democrats accuse his campaign against illegal immigration of ignoring more complex humanitarian issues on the border and stoking xenophobia.
But the disagreement over walls has expanded into a much broader test of political strength in divided Washington, with each side desperate to prevent the other from declaring victory.
Meanwhile, the 800,000 unpaid federal employees and many more contract workers are collateral victims, facing the start of a second month of going unpaid.
Fulltime employees will get their back pay eventually, but in the meantime they still have to meet mortgage payments and other monthly costs. For contractors, there isn't even back pay to look forward to.
"If you're not going to pay our bills, then send us back to work. That's all we're asking," said Yvette Hicks, 40, a contractor at the Smithsonian museum complex. "People are losing their houses, people are losing their cars and everything."
"Right now, this shutdown is really destroying me and my family," she said. "I'm the mother and the father in my household, and my children depend on me."
On Saturday, Trump made a rare attempt at compromise, telling Democrats he would extend temporary protection to about a million immigrants facing deportation if he gets his $5.7 billion in wall funding.
The deal would provide relief for two categories of immigrants: 700,000 so-called "Dreamers," children of people who settled illegally in the United States, and who have become a favorite cause of the Democrats, as well as 300,000 other immigrants whose current protected status is expiring.
But Pelosi sent out a rejection before Trump had even officially laid out his proposal. Trump also caught backlash from the right wing of his own party, which accused him of wanting to give amnesty to large numbers of people living in the country illegally.