US partial government shutdown becomes longest on record as it enters 22nd day

The partial shutdown of the United States government has become the longest closure in the country's history as it entered its 22nd day.

The milestone was passed as the clock ticked past midnight into Saturday in Washington DC.

President Donald Trump has refused to approve a budget unless it includes funds for his long-promised wall on the Mexican border.

But Democrats have rejected his request for $5.7bn (£4.5bn).

President Donald Trump has requested funding for his Mexican border wall (REUTERS)

Mr Trump and nervous Republicans have been scrambling to find a way out of the deadlock, which left federal workers without pay on Friday.

Earlier the House and Senate voted to give federal workers back pay when the government reopens, although the chambers are not sitting over the weekend.

Mr Trump is said to have privately considered declaring a national emergency to build a wall between the US and Mexico without a new stream of cash from Congress.

However members of his own party have been fiercely debating that idea, and the president has urged Congress to come up with another solution.

Anger: federal workers in Ogden, Utah, protest against the US government shutdown (AP)

"What we're not looking to do right now is national emergency," Mr Trump said.

He insisted that he had the authority to do that, adding that he is "not going to do it so fast" because he would still prefer to work a deal with Congress.

Around 800,000 workers missed pay on Friday, with many receiving blank pay statements.

Some posted photos of their empty earnings statements on social media as a rallying cry to end the shutdown, a jarring image that many in the White House feared could turn more voters against the president as he holds out for billions in new wall funding.

A construction crew works as new sections of the US-Mexico border barrier are installed (Getty Images)

With polls showing Mr Trump getting most of the blame for the shutdown, the administration accelerated planning for a possible emergency declaration to try to get around Congress and fund the wall from existing sources of federal revenue.

The White House explored diverting money for wall construction from a range of other accounts, Associated Press reports.

One idea being considered was diverting some of the $13.9 billion allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year's deadly hurricanes and floods.

That option triggered an outcry from officials in Puerto Rico and some states recovering from natural disasters, and appeared to lose steam on Friday.

The White House also was eyeing military construction funds, another politically difficult choice because the money would be diverted from a backlog of hundreds of projects at bases around the nation.

Mr Trump has been counseled by outside advisers to move toward a national emergency declaration, but many in the White House are trying to put on the brakes.

Senior aide Jared Kushner, who traveled with the president to the Texas border on Thursday, was among those opposed to the declaration, arguing to the president that pursuing a broader immigration deal was a better option.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has signaled moral opposition to the wall and vowed to oppose any funding, said the president is seeking to divert attention from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and other White House problems.

"This isn't a wall between Mexico and the United States. This is a wall between his failures of his administration," Ms Pelosi told reporters. "This is a big diversion, and he's a master of diversion."

In a Friday morning tweet, Mr Trump called illegal immigration on the southern border "an invasion," even though border crossings have declined in recent years.

Later, he tried to blame Democrats for the shutdown, claiming he's flexible about the needed barrier.

"I don't care what they name it," Mr Trump said. "They can name it `peaches."'

Mr Trump has told advisers he believes the fight for the wall - even if it never yields the requested funding - is a political win for him.

But some of his outside advisers have urged him to declare a national emergency, believing it would have two benefits: First, it would allow him to claim that he was the one to act to reopen the government.

Second, inevitable legal challenges would send the matter to court, allowing Mr Trump to continue the fight for the wall - and continue to excite his supporters - while not actually closing the government or immediately requiring him to start construction.

Many Democrats, meanwhile, say they have little reason to give into Trump's demand for border wall funding since taking control of the House in the midterm elections.

"The American people gave us the majority based on our comprehensive approach to this problem and they rejected President Trump's," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.