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Washington: "If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost."

So said Nancy Pelosi, quoting former Republican President Ronald Reagan, when the first female House Speaker delivered her first speech at the the US House of Representatives. 

Democrats wasted no time flexing their new power in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by approving legislation backed by new Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would end a 13-day partial government shutdown, ignoring President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall.

Thursday marked the first day of divided government in Washington since Trump took office in January 2017, as Democrats took control in the House from his fellow Republicans, who remain in charge of the Senate.

The new US House Democratic majority on Thursday approved two measures ending a two-week partial government shutdown, but an impasse remains as the bills provide no money for President Donald Trump's border wall.

Refugee crisis: A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands travelling from Central America en route to the United States, run from tear gas in front of the border wall between the US and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25. Image Credit: Reuters

Trump has threatened a veto of the legislation that would fund homeland security operations until February 8 and several other agencies through September because they do not provide any money for a wall that Trump has demanded by constructed on the US border with Mexico.

The Republican-run Senate has said it may not even vote on the legislation.

The new House speaker, veteran Democrat Nancy Pelosi, stood firm shortly before the vote saying no funding for a border wall would be made available.

Earlier, President Donald Trump remained out of public view last week as the partial government shutdown and had issued threats via Twitter amid the standoff with Democrats over border wall funding.

After coming back from surprise trip to Iraq, Trump has had no public events, and aides offered few details about his schedule, other than saying the president was working and making phone calls.

Trump has emphasised his decision to cancel a planned vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and remain in Washington. But he has chosen not to use this time to engage in substantive negotiations over the budget or seize the public stage and make his case for funding the border wall.

Instead, he’s filled the silence with a rash of tweets that have blamed Democrats for the shutdown and cast illegal immigration as a threat to the country.

US President Donald Trump statement on govt shutdown 22122018
US President Donald Trump makes a statement on the possible government shutdown before signing criminal just reform legislation in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Washington. Image Credit: AP

The president’s relatively low profile coincides with Republicans and Democrats digging in for an extended fight, with no breakthrough in sight.

Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill said the president remained in touch with GOP leaders, but they said the only tangible talks Friday were between rank-and-file members of the two parties.

Congressional leaders have stayed mostly silent in recent days.

Background on US government shutdown 

The 2019-2020 Congress convened with roughly a quarter of the federal government closed, affecting 800,000 employees, in a shutdown triggered by Trump’s demand last month for the money for a U.S.-Mexican border wall - opposed by Democrats - as part of any legislation funding government agencies.

The federal government has been shut down since December 21; those affected include an estimated 350,000 who are on furlough at home.

The closure of federal agencies marks the third partial government shutdown in 2018 and the longest since workers were furloughed for 16 days in 2013 during a budget impasse when House Republicans sought to cut off funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Trump declared four weeks ago during a White House meeting with Pelosi and Schumer that he would be “proud” to take responsibility for shutting down the government over funding for a border wall.

Since then, he has sought to blame Democrats, though he has spent little time during the past two week trying to win over public sentiment.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found 47 per cent of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, compared with 33 per cent who blame congressional Democrats.