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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider
Updated: 10 hours 6 min ago

GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 19:28

As President Donald Trump and top Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame at each other on the twentieth day of a partial government shutdown, there were no signs on Capitol Hill that GOP lawmakers would abandon the President’s drive for money to build a border wall, though Republican lawmakers publicly expressed concerns about the idea of the President declaring a national emergency, in order to shift money around in the federal budget to build the wall.

“Our side is holding strong,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who along with other conservative Republicans had pressed the President for months to be more aggressive on the border wall issue.

“It’s something that we’re going to stand with the President,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who was more than ready to show off text messages from supporters back home urging Republicans in Congress not to give in.

“Vote for the wall!” Yoho read from his phone just off the House floor. “Hold out for the wall,” was another message, as rank and file Republicans stood firm on Day 20.

Democrats are acting like @realDonaldTrump only wants to build a 2,000 mile wall. Here’s the truth: President Trump's comprehensive border security plan includes 234 miles of new physical barriers, more personnel, technology, and additional resources that will #SecureOurBorder.

— Congressman Tom Rice (@RepTomRice) January 10, 2019

“President Trump cannot and will not capitulate on his promise to secure the border,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has tried with a group of other GOP Senators to come up with some kind of broader immigration deal.

“Shutdown continues, no end in sight,” Graham tweeted on Thursday afternoon.

While the President was at the border, Democrats in the Senate protested the refusal of GOP leaders to allow Senate votes on funding bills passed by the House, again blocking efforts to start work on a bipartisan foreign policy bill dealing with the Mideast.

“It really doesn’t make any sense to deal with a government shutdown by shutting down the Senate,” complained Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who for the second time this week saw action on his bill held up by Democrats.

“People are being hurt, it’s got to end, and it’s got to end now,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) to a rally of federal workers on Capitol Hill, as they demanded that the Senate act on bills to re-open those parts of the federal government which were shuttered starting on December 22.

“We love our jobs,” said Brian Ching, a NASA engineer who works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the crowd of union supporters chanted, “Back to work! Back to work!”

“Mr. President, end this shutdown now!” said one union leader to cheers.

Air traffic controllers are rallying on the grounds of the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/5RRPplE1E3

— Shawna Thomas (@Shawna) January 10, 2019

The union rallies came a day before some 800,000 federal workers would miss their first paycheck because of the shutdown dispute, with no sign of any negotiations between the White House and Democrats, a day after President Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders.

“I think there is a middle ground,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who urged both sides to simply split the difference on what the President wants for a wall, and what Democrats don’t want to give, suggesting around $2.5 billion to reporters, though that number has been rejected by the President.

While President Trump was visiting the border in Texas, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with reporters, saying no decision had been made on declaring a national emergency, in which the President would unilaterally tap other funds to build a wall or other barriers without the consent of Congress.

“I have an absolute right to declare a national emergency,” the President told reporters at the White House before flying to Texas, indicating that if there’s no deal, he would likely choose that option.

President Trump: "I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven't done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely." pic.twitter.com/Zd4Xq8JvVU

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 10, 2019

But while there is strong support for the President on the wall – Republicans have notably expressed public reservations about a national emergency decision by the President, concerned by the precedent it might set, a possible legal challenge, and what monies Mr. Trump might tap for wall construction, especially if it comes from the Pentagon.

“I’m opposed to using defense dollars for non-defense purposes,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I adamantly opposed to the money coming from military construction,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), worried – like other lawmakers – that any move by the President to tap those accounts could put on hold construction plans at local military bases in their districts.

Even some of the President’s more vocal supporters agreed such a declaration would not be the best outcome for those in favor of a wall.

“I think there’s some concern – I believe he’s heard those – about how that power could be used by future Presidents for other reasons,” said Sen. Rubio.

“I think we should do it legislatively,” Rep. Jordan said on Thursday, “because if he (Trump) goes the emergency route, I’m convinced it’s going to wind up in court.”

In the halls of Congress, it was obvious that no deal was in the cards between Congress and the President, as the Senate left for the weekend by 2:30 pm on Thursday afternoon, while the House was passing funding bills which the White House said would be vetoed.

Away from shutdown fight, House Democrats press agenda

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 09:00

Overshadowed by the bitter political standoff over funding for border security, which has resulted in a partial government shutdown that has stretched for almost three weeks, Democrats in the House are using their new majority status to press ahead on some of their campaign promises, unveiling major legislation in recent days on ethics in government, voting rights, and gun violence, and setting the stage for action on climate change, and a variety of investigations of the Trump Administration.

“We put power back into the hands of the people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as she helped to introduce the first major legislation of the 116th Congress, H.R. 1, a sweeping measure on voting rights.

While Democrats could certainly offer up bills on any subject in recent years, grabbing the majority in the 2018 mid-term elections will mean they can not only produce new legislation, but bring it to the floor for action.

Here’s some of the areas where House Democrats are already moving:

1. Reforms on voting, campaign finance, ethics. This 571 page bill from Democrats covers a lot of ground in terms of voting reforms, campaign fundraising changes, and new efforts on ethics in government. In fact, the bill is so comprehensive that the section-by-section summary of the measure runs for 22 pages. The voting reforms include making it easier to register to vote with automatic voter registration, making Election Day a national holiday, not requiring postage for mail-in ballots, blocking purges of voters rolls, efforts to block partisan gerrymandering, and much more. The campaign finance changes include reforms on so-called ‘dark money’ in elections, stricter rules on politcal action committees, and new processes for the Federal Election Commission. The ethics changes seek to slow the revolving door for members of Congress and lobbyists, new rules for ethics oversight in the Congress, and creates a code of ethics for the Supreme Court (there isn’t one right now). The plan would also force a President of the United States to disclose his or her tax returns.

Rep. John Lewis talking about automatic voter registration and other voting reforms in HR 1: “The vote is the most powerful non-violent way of transformation we have in our democracy.”

— Ella Nilsen (@ella_nilsen) January 4, 2019

2. Background checks on all gun sales. While the first major bill from Democrats was 571 pages, the bipartisan plan on universal background checks for gun sales runs only six pages in all. This bill would require that in all sales of guns – including private sales – that the buyer go through the instant gun sale check system. “97 percent of Americans support background checks,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), “and yet we offer thoughts and prayers instead,” as Democrats vowed they would press ahead with action on this bill within the first 100 days of 2019. The bill has five Democrats and five Republicans as the official co-sponsors, in an effort to make it bipartisan – but it still drew sharp GOP attacks. “Thankfully this nonsense isn’t going anywhere in the Senate,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who accused Speaker Pelosi of “showboating on gun control.” Democrats though believe the atmosphere is changing in Congress when it comes to acting on guns and gun violence. We’ll see by Easter if they’re really able to bring this bill to a vote in the House – and pass it. “The purpose of this Act is to utilize the current background checks process in the United States to ensure individuals prohibited from gun possession are not able to obtain firearms,” the bill states.

Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Mike Thompson and Lucy McBath and former Rep. Gabby Giffords stand with anti-gun violence advocates to announce House Dems’ first big gun control push on background checks pic.twitter.com/7xOosKskyx

— Tal Kopan (@TalKopan) January 8, 2019

3. Climate change and environmental policy. With Republicans out of the majority in the House, Democrats will now get to do more on environmental issues; on their second day in power, they voted to set up a special panel just on climate change in the House, chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL). Also, look for Democrats to use House committees to question actions by the EPA and Interior Department on offshore oil and gas drilling, pollution regulations, Trump Administration policies on the environment, and more. Just because Democrats are in charge doesn’t mean they can force the President to change his policies – but the basic function of oversight will generate headlines and put top Trump officials on the spot at hearings in the Congress in 2019 and 2020.

.@SpeakerPelosi is right: climate change is an existential threat. With the new Congress seated, we can get to work on bold legislation like the #GreenNewDeal. I look forward to working w/ the Speaker & all of my colleagues who recognize the urgent need for transformative action. pic.twitter.com/L01kohKAie

— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 3, 2019

4. Priming the pump on investigations. While there has been a lot of talk about the Democrats investigating everything imaginable in the Trump Administration, the work of House committees takes a little time to get going in a new Congress, especially with the change in leadership. Democrats have tried to get the Acting Attorney General in for a hearing, but have faced resistance, so now the House Judiciary Committee has told Matthew Whitaker to show up by January 29 for a hearing, as Whitaker evidently wanted to wait to testify until two weeks after the end of the current partial government shutdown. “I cannot accept your proposal,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who will be one of the prime point men for Democrats in 2019 in terms of Congressional oversight. More hearings – and subpoenas – are coming.

Nadler sends Whitaker a letter demanding he testify by January 29 — as we reported last night Nadler is threatening a subpoena if Whitaker won't voluntarily appear pic.twitter.com/PGW2mgyAs9

— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) January 9, 2019

5. Waiting on Mueller report, Democrats to press on Russia. The new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), has already made clear that Democrats will likely recall some witnesses, convinced that Republicans didn’t push hard enough for answers on possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any ties to the Trump campaign. There were already reports on Wednesday that the first person to get a subpoena would be Donald Trump Jr., as panel member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) gave that answer during a book signing event in Washington. Schiff has already said he’ll make transcripts of earlier interviews available to the Mueller investigation, giving the Special Counsel extra information to review. The Russia investigation is not going away with the Democrats in charge of the House.

As more information is revealed about the Trump’s campaign’s relationship with the Russians, it makes protecting the Mueller investigation that much more imperative. The American people deserve the facts. https://t.co/uwgMDN3afM

— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) January 9, 2019

NO DEAL: President Trump walks out of White House shutdown talks

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 21:11

A day after addressing the nation on the need for more money to deal with border security, President Donald Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House with top Democratic leaders, after they again rejected his call for Congress to approve money to build a wall along the border with Mexico, a plan that President repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign would be paid for by the Mexican government.

“The President just got up and walked out,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who told reporters outside the West Wing of the White House that Mr. Trump was angered by the refusal of Democrats to give in on his demands for wall money.

“He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ she said, no,” Schumer told reporters. “And he just got up, and said ‘Then we have nothing to discuss,’ and just walked out.”

Schumer says Trump “just got up and walked out” of a meeting with him and Pelosi because they didn't agree to a border wall.

“Again we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way” pic.twitter.com/029snPQKmk

— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) January 9, 2019

Democrats have held fast to their refusal to agree to any money for a border wall – while Republicans say it must be part of any plan to combat illegal immigration along the southern border, as on Day 19 of the partial government shutdown, there seems to be no middle ground to end this dispute.

In a tweet, President Trump confirmed what Democrats told reporters – that he left the meeting after being told by Pelosi that Democrats would not agree to Mr. Trump’s call for money to fund a border wall.

The President labeled the meeting a ‘total waste of time,’ as Republicans accused Democrats of not bargaining in good faith – Democrats say they won’t negotiate details of funding for border security until the government has been fully re-opened, while the President says he won’t re-open the government until he knows he’s getting money for the wall.

That led to fireworks in the White House Situation Room.

Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019

The dustup came as the House was starting votes on a series of spending bills – all of which had been designed by Senators in both parties last year – in a bid to re-open the federal government.

While GOP leaders ridiculed the process, vowing not to vote on those bills in the Senate, more Republicans began to say they would support the measures, because of pressure from back home to fully open up the government.

Earlier, the President met with GOP Senators at the Capitol, and sent them a clear message.

“Stick together,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

But there were dissenting voices, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and others said keeping the government closed was not the right choice.

How does it end? @repdonyoung says he'll "probably" vote w Dems to pass 6 spending bills this week. If enough Rs cross over, it raises the White House's "biggest fear": a veto override in House. "And that could happen. So I think that compromise will come forth."

— Liz Ruskin (@lruskin) January 9, 2019

800,000 federal workers are either on furlough or are being forced to work without pay at this point – many are scheduled to get a paycheck this Friday – but that seems unlikely.

On Capitol Hill, there was speculation that the failure of the talks would lead the President to declare a ‘national emergency,’ and attempt to move money around in the defense budget to fund the construction of some of the wall.

While a number of Republicans oppose that plan, such a declaration could give cover to Republicans in the House and Senate to then vote to re-open the government, and end the partial shutdown.

Trump orders FEMA to block wildfire disaster aid for California

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 16:36

Again accusing the state of California of not doing enough to prevent wildfires on forest lands, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he was ordering federal emergency officials not to give any more disaster relief to the Golden State to deal with damage from wildfires, drawing a swift rebuke from Democrats in the Congress.

“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money,” the President wrote in a tweet, as he characterized California’s anti-wildfire efforts as ‘disgraceful.’

It was not immediately apparent what pushed the President to order FEMA – which is currently under a partial government shutdown – to stop disaster aid for California, which was ravaged in 2018 by several particularly intense wildfires.

“This deserves a 5-star award for idiocy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said of the President’s tweet, while the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom chided the President on Twiter as well.

Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses.

The people of CA — folks in Paradise — should not be victims to partisan bickering.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 9, 2019

Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019

It’s not the first time the President has thrown verbal barbs at California – even during wildfire events – as he has accused the state government of following ‘bad environmental laws’ and not properly ‘raking and cleaning’ forests, which he said is done successfully in Finland – a statement which drew widespread mockery from Democrats.

California officials have pointed out repeatedly to the President that the state manages just two to three percent of the forest lands in the Golden State – while the federal government is responsible for over half of those lands.

“Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state’s history last year,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who said the President was wrong to “play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.”

“This is absolutely shameful,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) of the President’s announcement. “While communities like Paradise are still struggling with multi-billion dollar recovery efforts the President withholds funding for petty political gains. Where is his empathy?”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who leads the California delegation, which is now 45 Democrats to 7 Republicans – swiftly denounced the President’s threat.

.@POTUS seems to have forgotten, yet again, that The federal government manages 57 percent of the forests in California. The state manages 2 percent. Private owners are responsible for 39 percent. Maybe this colorful map can help! #FactCheckTrump pic.twitter.com/vVDiEfR7x2

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) January 9, 2019

.@realDonaldTrump’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes. @GOPLeader must join me to condemn & call on POTUS to reassure millions in CA that our govt will be there for them in their time of need https://t.co/YZJQug9zh0

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019

The President’s latest volley at the state of California comes after a disastrous mid-term election for Republicans in the Golden State, where Democrats picked up seven U.S. House seats, including a historic sweep of seats in Orange County, once the home of conservative Republicans in the state.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), whose district suffered devastating damage during the most recent Paradise fire, said he was surprised by the President’s tweet, saying it came out of ‘left field.’

“Cutting off money for FEMA isn’t the right approach,” LaMalfa told reporters, though he said he agreed with the President’s desire to force change in how the state of California deals with forest management.

“If you want to cut off money, cut off money for stupid things like high speed rail,” LaMalfa added.

Foreign company asks for U.S. Supreme Court review in mystery subpoena case

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 18:07

In a highly unusual legal matter, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday again allowed fines to be levied against an unknown foreign company for not complying with a federal grand jury subpoena, even as that company – owned by an unnamed foreign government – officially asked the Justices to rule directly on its legal challenge against the subpoena, in a secret case which many believe is part of the Special Counsel investigation of Robert Mueller.

“Motion for leave to file a petition for a writ of certiorari under seal with redacted copies for the public record filed,” was the simple posting on the Supreme Court website on Tuesday, as legal experts said that meant the company was asking the court to rule on the merits of the matter – whether a grand jury subpoena for unknown information – could be enforced.

In late December, the unknown foreign corporation had asked the Supreme Court to block fines for refusing to comply with the subpoena – Chief Justice John Roberts halted those penalties back on December 23, but on Tuesday afternoon, he lifted that stay, in a defeat for the unknown the corporation.

“The application for stay, presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court, is denied. The administrative stay previously entered by The Chief Justice is vacated,” the Court’s order read.

In mystery grand jury case involving Mueller probe, lawyers for corporation ask #scotus to review lower court decision; maybe will offer glimpse of issue? "Motion for leave to file a petition for a writ of certiorari under seal with redacted copies for the public record filed."

— Robert Barnes (@scotusreporter) January 8, 2019

More information was released in the case as well on Tuesday by a federal appeals court, which made public a more lengthy ruling on why this secret case – known as “In Re Grand Jury Subpoena” – should be decided in favor of the government.

In a 28 page ruling issued by a three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges ruled that the request for investigation information by the feds was justified because the subpoena was ‘based upon the general commercial activity carried on in the United States by a U.S. office of the Corporation.’

As with an earlier three page ruling, no other information was given about the details of the subpoena, what information was being sought, or what kind of investigation was involved.

“The grand jury seeks information from a corporation (“the Corporation”) owned by Country A and issued a subpoena directing the Corporation to produce that information,” the judges summarized, without giving any hint of detail.

When the case was argued before the panel in early December, an entire floor of the federal courthouse was sealed off, to prevent reporters and other court watchers from identifying the parties to the case.



The three judge panel ruled that efforts by the company to avoid scrutiny by the U.S. legal system were not persuasive.

“Consequently, we are unconvinced that Country A’s law truly prohibits the Corporation from complying with the subpoena,” the judges concluded.

The Special Counsel’s office has not confirmed or denied that it is involved in the matter; news organizations saw two top lawyers from the Mueller team return to their offices soon after the December arguments concluded.

Russian involved in Trump Tower meeting charged with obstruction in separate case

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 16:32

Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment on Tuesday against a Russian lawyer who was a central player in a 2016 meeting with top officials of President Donald Trump’s campaign, charging lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya with obstruction of justice as part of her work in a money laundering case involving Prevezon Holdings and Russian government officials.

“This investigation brought to light how Veselnitskaya secretly schemed with a senior Russian prosecutor to provide false information to U.S. law enforcement in an attempt to influence the legal proceedings in the Southern District of New York,” prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said in a release on Tuesday.

Court records show the indictment was submitted to a federal judge and sealed on December 20, 2018; it involves a fraud investigation that sought to recover property in the United States – mainly New York real estate – as the feds allege that was part of the Russian tax fraud scheme that Veselnitskaya tried to protect.




The case had nothing directly to do with the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 elections, and any ties to the Trump campaign – but the mere involvement of Veselnitskaya in the case brought extra interest in the matter.

“On the other hand, this indictment sends some signals with larger significance: Russian money laundering,” tweeted Fordham University law professor Jed Shugerman.

“It connects Veselnitskaya more directly to Russian frauds and money laundering,” as Shugerman labeled it more “money laundering dots” that the Special Counsel might be able to tie together, citing charges already brought against both Manafort and his top aide, Rick Gates, who is cooperating with prosecutors.

Veselnitskaya was part of the group which met with top campaign officials in June of 2016 – what’s become known as the ‘Trump Tower meeting’ – which involved the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort.

While today’s case has nothing to do with that meeting, the details again demonstrated that Veselnitskaya has ties inside the Russian government, raising questions about her explanation for the Trump Tower meeting, which Trump officials said was about Russian adoption policies, but emails to Trump Jr. showed was about providing “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” the subject line read on the emails setting up that June meeting.

Veselnitskaya is in Russia, and there was no expectation that she would suddenly be cooperating with prosecutors on either the Prevezon case, or the Mueller investigation.

As for the Special Counsel probe, lawyers for Paul Manafort had until midnight on Monday to file a response to charges by Mueller’s team that Manafort had lied to the feds – during a time when he was supposedly cooperating with prosecutors in the Russia investigation.

Just in: Paul Manafort's spokesman Jason Maloni says Manafort's lawyers responded yesterday to Mueller's allegations that he breached his plea deal. "We filed our opposition yesterday under seal," he says.

— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 8, 2019

While lawyers for Manafort told news organizations that their response had filed – but was being kept secret under seal – just after 12 noon, an order was finally posted showing that a sealed document had been filed, but the judge in the case ordered Manafort’s lawyers to also submit a redacted version for public release.

IRS to process refunds during shutdown as Trump preps prime time speech

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 09:00

Locked in a battle of political chicken with Democrats in the Congress, President Donald Trump will speak to the nation on Tuesday night to press his case for extra money to fortify the southern U.S. border against illegal immigration, as the Trump Administration scrambled to soften the impacts of an extended partial government shutdown, with the Internal Revenue Service announcing it would process tax refunds in coming weeks and months even if the Congress and the President don’t end a funding lapse which started before Christmas.

The IRS decision came amid a growing impact of the partial shutdown around the nation, as some 800,000 federal workers – whether they’ve been on the job since the funding lapse began just before Christmas or not – seemed unlikely to receive a pay check as scheduled on Friday January 11, as the fight over funding for the President’s border wall escalated on Monday.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

In a written statement, the IRS announced it would be “recalling a significant portion of its workforce” – without pay if the shutdown continues – to process millions of tax returns, as the agency said the tax filing season would begin on January 28.

IRS confirms filing season opens January 28, and refunds will be issued even if the shutdown continues. pic.twitter.com/6rQcNDShKo

— Wesley Elmore (@wesleymelmore) January 7, 2019

The move was a change in policy from a shutdown in 2011, when the Obama Administration found that tax work could not be done by the IRS during a funding lapse.

The move came as the President decided to make his first formal address to the nation from the Oval Office, amid talk that Mr. Trump would declare a national emergency, and use extraordinary executive powers to move money around in the federal budget in order to build his border wall.

Asked by reporters if the President was going to take that route, Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that “the President said in front of all you, just the other day, that it’s something that he’s considering looking into.”

Legal experts said it was unclear whether the President had the legal power to move such funds around for a border wall, though the post-World War II Congress has approved dozens of laws giving emergency authorities to the Executive.

Democrats were not convinced.

“His national emergency is completely made up,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).

“Stop pretending that the wall is a national emergency,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “No one is falling for it.”

“This is not the way normal presidents, Democrat or Republican, treat the Constitution, treat the laws or treat the legislative process.” Democratic Sen. @MarkWarner responds to Trump saying he may declare a national emergency to build the border wall. https://t.co/rr3cb34fVR pic.twitter.com/8n5xeOjG0S

— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) January 7, 2019

Meanwhile, the White House sent the Congress over $7 billion in new requests for resources to deal with illegal immigration, ranging from money for a border barrier to extra immigration and border patrol agents.

The White House request for funds includes:

+ $5.7 billion for “construction of a steel barrier” along the border with Mexico. This would be $4.1 billion over when lawmakers had originally planned to spend on border security (fencing, barriers, and other security measures).

+ $311 million for new border patrol agents; this would be an increase of $100 million.

+ $571 million for 2,000 ‘additional law enforcement personnel’ to enforce federal immigration laws. This money was not included in the President’s original 2019 budget.

+ $675 million for counter-narcotics efforts along the border. This would be an increase of $631 million over the 2019 Senate GOP plan.

+ An extra $798 million for detention of illegal immigrants. This would give the Trump Administration $4.2 billion to fund the 52,000 detention beds.

+ An additional $800 million ‘to address urgent humanitarian needs,’ to deal with detained illegal immigrants.

The budget request came after an unusual weekend of meetings involving Vice President Mike Pence and top Congressional staffers – no lawmakers of either party were present for the meetings, which was a signal to many on Capitol Hill that an agreement on border funding was not near.

Democratic leaders in the House had no plans to vote on the extra money, reminding the President of his much-touted campaign promise to have Mexico foot the bill for the wall.

“On Day One of the new Congress, the House passed bipartisan legislation that honors our responsibility to protect the American people with funding for smart, effective border security solutions – just not the President’s wasteful and ineffective wall,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

Trump to visit Mexican border as White House pushes for security funding

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 17:32

The White House announced Monday that President Donald Trump would take his fight for extra money to deal with illegal immigration to the border with Mexico on Thursday, as negotiations between top officials and lawmakers in Congress seem to have produced little headway in a dispute that has created a 17 day partial government shutdown, which could lead some 800,000 federal workers to miss a paycheck at the end of this week.

“President @realDonaldTrump will travel to the Southern border on Thursday to meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Twitter late Monday morning.

The President also announced that he would address the nation on Tuesday night about the border; it was not immediately clear whether the address would be aired by the broadcast networks, and whether Democrats would get airtime for a rebuttal.

I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019

Those developments came as the White House has told Congress that it wants more money for “construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border,” echoing the comments of the President on Sunday, where he said he would be willing to move away from a concrete wall.

“We’ll build a steel barrier,” the President said as he returned from Camp David. “They don’t like concrete,” he said of Democrats, “so we’ll give them steel. Steel is fine.”

President @realDonaldTrump will travel to the Southern border on Thursday to meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis. More details will be announced soon.

— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 7, 2019

The extra money for the steel barrier came as part of a new request for over $7 billion in extra funding for the border, not only to build a barrier, but also to deal with the cost of detained migrants, anti-drug efforts, and increased law enforcement.

“The President continues to stress the need to pass legislation that will both reopen the Federal Government and address the security and humanitarian crisis at our Nation’s Southwest Border,” wrote Russ Vought, the Acting head of the Office of Management and Budget.

The request – sent to key members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee – would add to the $1.6 billion that Republicans and Democrats had budgeted last year in the Senate for border security, as the White House wants more not only for fencing and other border security actions, but also money to deal with an influx of detained immigrants.

Today we made it crystal clear in a letter to Congress what it would take to address the illegal border crossing and humanitarian crisis by securing our nations border.

To view → https://t.co/kfIyV0ykuS pic.twitter.com/VUkXekThFv

— Russ Vought (@RussVought45) January 7, 2019

The White House request for funds includes:

+ $5.7 billion for “construction of a steel barrier” along the border with Mexico. This would be $4.1 billion over when lawmakers had originally planned to spend on border security (fencing, barriers, and other security measures).

+ $311 million for new border patrol agents; this would be an increase of $100 million.

+ $571 million for 2,000 ‘additional law enforcement personnel’ to enforce federal immigration laws. This money was not included in the President’s original 2019 budget.

+ $675 million for counter-narcotics efforts along the border. This would be an increase of $631 million over the 2019 Senate GOP plan.

+ An extra $798 million for detention of illegal immigrants. This would give the Trump Administration $4.2 billion to fund the 52,000 detention beds.

+ An additional $800 million ‘to address urgent humanitarian needs,’ to deal with detained illegal immigrants.

The budget request came after an unusual weekend of meetings involving Vice President Mike Pence and top Congressional staffers – no lawmakers of either party were present for the meetings, which was a signal to some on Capitol Hill that an agreement on border funding was not near.

Democrats said it was all a show for the President’s political base.

Trump admin didn’t realize…

a shutdown Trump took responsibility for…

over a wall we don’t need…

to stop a crisis that doesn’t exist…

that he uses to manipulate his base…

could kick low-income families out of their homes.

President Trump, open the govt now! https://t.co/KW2L53zLzs

— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) January 7, 2019

In Congress, Democrats in the House were planning votes this week on four different bills to fund – and re-open – various parts of the federal government, which have been in a shutdown mode since a funding lapse started before Christmas, on December 22.

In the Senate, the first bill due on the floor in 2019 is slated to be on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East – but Democrats made clear they would block any such action, arguing the Senate should only be voting to end the partial shutdown.

“The Senate should vote on nothing else until we vote to reopen the government. Period,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

For those federal workers furloughed from their jobs, this Friday will be an important milestone, as it would represent their first missed paycheck.

“It’s hard,” one federal employee told me. “Depressing, that’s for sure.”

As of Monday, this shutdown had become the second longest such funding lapse. By Saturday, it would go past a shutdown which occurred over the holiday break at the end of 1995, and into early 1996.

Day 17 Shutdown Update – no solution in sight

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:56

As the sun rose on Monday in the nation’s capital, the story remained the same on the pre-Christmas funding lapse which has shuttered a chunk of the federal government, with no indications of any deal between the White House and Congress on funding for the President’s border wall or other border security measures, as it looks more and more that impacted workers will miss a pay day scheduled for this Friday, January 11.

“It’ll all work out,” the President told reporters at the White House Sunday after a quick staff retreat at Camp David. “What we need is we need a strong border.”

But the signs weren’t pointing to a quick resolution.

1. Lawmakers not involved in weekend negotiations. While Vice President Pence eagerly tweeted about weekend talks between the White House and Congress, there was one thing which stood out from the photos released by his office – there were no lawmakers from either party involved. Just staffers. And while aides are very important players, they aren’t the ones making the decisions, or voting on them in the House and Senate.

Productive discussion w/ Congressional leadership staff at @WhiteHouse. @SecNielsen gave a full presentation on crisis along Southern Border. We reaffirmed @POTUS’ commitment to secure the border, build the wall, keep Americans safe & reopen gov’t. Discussions continue tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/C7k9Sg8guY

— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 5, 2019

2. House and Senate not in session on this Monday. Even if a deal magically appeared on this 17th day of the shutdown, lawmakers couldn’t do anything about it today, as the House and Senate aren’t back until Tuesday. While the House last week approved a pair of funding bills to re-open the federal government, Senate Republicans are not planning to bring those up on the floor, as the first bill up for consideration in 2019 will be on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Democratic Senators are making it clear they will block such plans, arguing bills funding the government should be first.

Senate Democrats should block consideration of any bills unrelated to opening the government until Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans allow a vote on the bipartisan bills the House passed to open the government. Mitch, don’t delay. Let’s vote!

— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 5, 2019

3. House Democrats to pass more spending bills. With the Senate refusing to act on funding measures approved last week by the Democratic House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this weekend that Democrats would keep passing bills to fund those agencies which are under a shutdown, looking to increase pressure on GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate. The bills are nearly identical to legislation designed by Republicans in the Senate in 2018. The first vote would be on a financial services measure, which funds the Treasury Department, IRS, Securities and Exchange Commission, and other government agencies. Also on the list, the Interior funding bill, which deals with the National Park Service.

H.R. ___ Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2019 [PDF] [XML]
H.R. ___ Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 [PDF] [XML]
 
H.R. ___ Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 [PDF] [XML]
 
H.R. ___ Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 [PDF] [XML]

 

4. First paycheck could be missed this Friday. Every hour that goes by this week without a deal makes it more and more likely that some 800,000 federal workers – even those who have been required to work over the 17 days of the partial shutdown, would not be getting paid. Asked about the ability of government workers to pay their bills, President Trump said Sunday that he expected federal workers would be able to “adjust” financially, as he expressed confidence that they supported his drive for border security. “But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing,” Mr. Trump said.

Pres. Trump said he "can relate" to the furloughed federal workers who won't be able to pay their bills if the shutdown continues: "I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do." https://t.co/Ci5y0WIahL pic.twitter.com/FEbsuNaHmI

— ABC News (@ABC) January 7, 2019

5. Democrats question Park Service money moves. As the National Park Service announced Sunday that it would start using money from park entrance fees to cover costs during the shutdown, some Democrats said that was not allowed under federal law. The move came as trash piled up, restroom facilities were closed because of unsanitary conditions, and examples flowed in of problems at various parks around the nation, like Joshua Tree in California. Meanwhile, ethics groups raised their eyebrows at one National Park Service post which remained fully staffed in Washington – which is located in the Trump International Hotel just blocks from the White House.

Shutdown update: The Trump administration appears to have gone out of its way to keep the attraction in the federally owned building that houses the Trump hotel open and staffed with National Park Service rangers.https://t.co/MCX3uB4qn7

— Brad Heath (@bradheath) January 5, 2019

 

Democrats to pass more spending bills to pressure GOP on shutdown

Sun, 01/06/2019 - 10:00

With little evidence of progress in weekend talks to end a funding lapse which has triggered a partial government shutdown that’s now into a third week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Saturday that the House would start passing individual bills to re-open specific departments and agencies in the federal government, in a bid to put public pressure on Republicans over the shutdown dispute.

“The senseless uncertainty and chaos of the Trump Shutdown must end, now,” Pelosi said in a written statement, announcing that the House would vote first on a spending measure to fund the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

“This action is ncessary so that the American people can receive their tax refunds on schedule,” Pelosi added.

Last Thursday – hours after taking charge of the House – Democrats pushed through two spending measures to re-open departments which saw their funding dry up starting on December 22.

Republicans have refused to bring those bills up for a vote in the Senate.

Seeking to force Senate R defections, Pelosi says: “Next week, House Democrats will begin passing individual appropriations bills to re-open all government agencies, starting with the appropriations bill that covers the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service”

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 5, 2019

The goal of Democrats with this legislative gambit is simple – to put Republicans in the House on the record about opening up specific agencies and departments now under a partial shutdown.

A second goal is to increase pressure on Republicans in the U.S. Senate, where the first bill on the Senate floor in 2019 for consideration this coming week is not about the shutdown, but about foreign policy matters in the Middle East.

The announcement by Pelosi came after a day of negotiations at the White House involving Vice President Mike Pence and top Congressional aides; neither side reported any breakthrough to end the ongoing dispute over the President’s border wall.

“The conversation was productive and they agreed to meet again,” an aide to Pence told reporters, as the Vice President’s office made clear that Democrats had been told the President wants funding in any agreement “for the border wall.”

Mr. Trump stayed out of public view on Saturday, but used the bully pulpit of Twitter to criticize Democrats for their refusal to approve money for a wall, as Congress won’t return to work in either the House or Senate until Tuesday.

“The Democrats could solve the shutdown in a very short period of time,” the President wrote, a day after acknowledging that he told Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer that the shutdown could last ‘months or even years’ if he doesn’t get his border wall funding.

I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats, I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2019

The Democrats could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time. All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly! This would be so easy to do!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2019

Congress has approved five of the twelve spending bills which fund the operations of the federal government; the remaining seven bills fund about 25 percent of Uncle Sam, everything from the Border Patrol to the FAA, TSA, NASA, Justice Department, Commerce Department, EPA, and more.

While some Republican Senators indicated a desire to re-open the government – and continue negotiations on the border wall issue in the interim – there were no such cracks appearing among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

“We must end this shutdown now and provide certainty that hard-working families will receive their tax refunds on time,” said Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), one of the dozens of new Democrats elected to the House in 2018, as she defeated a more conservative GOP incumbent in a suburban area outside Minneapolis.

“If President Trump is really concerned about national security then why isn’t he paying employees at the FBI, TSA and other security agencies who work every day to protect this country?” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“Our constituents are speaking loud and clear,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), as Democrats blamed the President for creating a funding crisis.

Back home in their districts, Democrats went on a media offensive, with lawmakers going to national park facilities to pick up trash, highlighting how the shutdown has forced the National Park Service to curtail such services.

Picking up trash with ⁦@RepHuffman⁩ at Lands End because furloughed National Park workers can’t work because of #TrumpShutdown. Open the government! pic.twitter.com/sNVWfxeJrD

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) January 5, 2019

“For each day this shutdown continues, federal employees and contractors are left wondering when they will get their next paycheck and the bills are piling up,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

The next paycheck would ordinarily roll in on January 11 for most federal workers – but with the shutdown, that would be delayed until later in the month, putting pressure on workers who don’t have an extra financial cushion.

But even some of those who are being inconvenienced say they didn’t mind.

“It is holding up the sale of my house because HUD is closed,” one person told me on Twitter. “But I still support the shutdown in order to #BuildThatWall.”

The President was going to Camp David on Sunday to meet with top aides about the shutdown, and how best to hold Republicans together.

Only a handful of Republicans broke ranks last Thursday to vote for the two spending bills before the House. Reports indicated that the White House lobbied a number of GOP lawmakers to vote against the plans, in order to undercut Democratic Party efforts to divide Republicans on the shutdown.

At this point, Senate Majority Leader McConnell says he won’t bring any bills up on the floor about the shutdown until there is an agreement with the White House which can pass the Senate with 60 votes or more.

Before Christmas, the President had told Senate GOP leaders that he supported a short term measure to keep the government. Then, at the urging of more conservative House members, the President changed his mind after the Senate had approved the plan, leading to the current standoff over money for his border wall.

On Sunday morning, Democrats posted the text of four different spending bills to be voted on in the coming week, laying the groundwork for the votes promised by Pelosi.

A bill funding the Treasury Department, IRS, and other financial agencies can be found here.

A bill funding transportation and housing programs is here.

A bill funding the Department of Agriculture, food stamps, and other related programs is here.

A bill to fund the National Park Service and other programs under the Interior Department is here.

Partial shutdown impact spreads far from Washington, D.C.

Sat, 01/05/2019 - 10:00

As the White House and Democrats in Congress remained at odds over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build his border wall, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are facing the prospect of missing a paycheck at the end of next week, as the impact of a lack of a funding deal will cause financial pain to more than just people who work around the Washington, D.C. metro area.

“Even if we go back to work on Wednesday, the soonest we’d see a paycheck is the first week of February,” one Commerce Department worker told me. “A long time from now.”

Asked at a Rose Garden news conference on Friday what plans he had to help federal workers – if an extended shutdown developed – the President turned the conversation back to his goal of getting at least $5.6 billion for his border wall.

“This does really have a higher purpose than next week’s pay, and the people that won’t get next week’s pay, or the following week’s pay, I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they’d say, ‘Mr. President, keep going.'”

Most federal workers were paid on December 28 – their next paycheck is scheduled for January 11, for a pay period that ends on January 5.

But the shutdown won’t only impact the suburbs of Washington, and that’s increasingly being seen in local news reports around the country.

1. Department of Agriculture. Yes, the USDA has two big buildings on Independence Avenue in Washington – but the USDA has hundreds and hundreds of small offices all around the country, with programs galore that help farm operations big and small. The USDA on Friday announced it would delay a key crop report scheduled for release on January 11. Local Farm Service Agency offices around the country are closed, peppered in small towns in every corner of the country. Just like their counterparts in D.C., those USDA workers are also not getting paid.

Farmers may soon feel the effects of the government shutdown as the Department of Agriculture puts farm loans, disaster assistance, and tariff relief payments on hold. https://t.co/YCcmn8wmsU

— KNBN-TV Rapid City (@NewsCenter1) December 31, 2018

2. Environmental Protection Agency. Whether you like what the EPA does or does not do isn’t the question right now. The agency has more than just an office complex in Washington, as its field offices are spread around the country, with thousands of employees in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Only one of every six federal workers hold their job in the Washington, D.C. area. Most people won’t believe that figure – but it’s a reminder of the reach of Uncle Sam, and how even a partial shutdown hits more than those Inside the Beltway.

The work – and paychecks – of local federal workers are on hold as the shutdown continues. https://t.co/sKMleaoBaI

— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) January 4, 2019

3. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, the FBI is thought of as a big part of the Justice Department in Washington. But the agency has agents spread all across the country, and not just in Blue states. FBI field offices are still open, as agents do their jobs – whether they get paid or not, whether they’re in Charlotte, Columbia, Knoxville, Little Rock, Mobile, Omaha, Phoenix, or anywhere else around the country. That’s a lot of people in a lot of communities outside of D.C. who have to deal with the impacts of the shutdown.

Statement from FBIAA President @tfoconnor83:
“FBI Special Agents will continue to protect the American public from criminal and national security threats in the event of a federal government shutdown.

— FBI Agents Assoc. (@FBIAgentsAssoc) December 21, 2018

4. NASA. Most people think of any shutdown impact on NASA as hitting two places mainly – Central Florida near the Kennedy Space Center and Houston with the Johnson Space Center. But over the years, NASA made sure to spread out its facilities around the country – and with 95 percent of its employees furloughed, that means more than Orlando and Houston are going to feel the impact of the shutdown. There’s the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. NASA facilities in Virginia, California, Ohio and other states. And when the furloughs hit NASA, they also hit government contractors – and outfits that rely on business from the government employees as well.

NASA furloughs from government shutdown impacting surrounding businesses

My report: https://t.co/1SeVokGqup pic.twitter.com/wbX2CSJAkz

— Ivory Hecker FOX 26 (@IvoryHecker) January 4, 2019

5. National Parks. If there is one way that many Americans would run into the impact of the partial shutdown, it’s through the loss of funding for the National Park Service. There have been no shortage of news stories from parks around the country about overflowing bathrooms, injured people being carried out by Good Samaritans and the few rangers who are still working, and more. Again, like the workers at NASA, the FBI, EPA, and USDA, those who are ‘essential’ employees and ‘excepted’ from the furloughs are not getting paid. It’s not just a bunch of faceless bureaucrats supposedly making big money in the nation’s capital.

A furloughed federal contractor for the National Park Service speaks about her experience of the ongoing government shutdown: https://t.co/5scTMSqYNP pic.twitter.com/Fsttz6c4hM

— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) January 4, 2019

Negotiations led by Vice President Pence will resume on Saturday – but he will meet with Congressional staff, not lawmakers.

The House and Senate are not in session again until Tuesday – as for now, the partial shutdown, and the fight over money for a border wall, seems no closer to a resolution.

Trump: Shutdown could go ‘months or even years’ in border wall dispute

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 19:42

Presenting much different accounts of a two hour meeting at the White House, President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders in Congress agreed to keep negotiating through the weekend on a funding lapse which has resulted in a partial government shutdown, the President said he told top Democrats that he was ready to wait ‘months or even years’ to get the money he wants for a wall along the border with Mexico.

“I did say that, Absolutely. I said that,” the President told reporters in the White House Rose Garden, as he said the partial government shutdown will continue until there is a broader border deal.

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” the President said, saying he’s not worried about any blame for the partial shutdown, which began on December 22. “I don’t call it a shutdown.”

“We won’t be opening it until it’s solved,” Mr. Trump added.

.@MajorCBS asks about @SenSchumer's 'months or even years' comment: "Did you say that?"

President Trump: "I did. I did. I did say that. Absolutely I said that. I don't think it will."

Full video here: https://t.co/LEfjJCkCDE#GovernmentShutdown pic.twitter.com/laXiIr2GvA

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2019

Joining the President in the White House Rose Garden, Vice President Mike Pence said he would lead a negotiating effort through the weekend to secure an agreement on border funding and the wall, as Republicans cast the talks with Democrats as productive.

But that was a totally different description than what Democrats offered.

Before the President spoke, Democrats emerged from the White House with no optimism about either reaching a deal on border security funding, or ending the partial government shutdown.

“We really cannot resolve this until we open up government,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi characterized the meeting as ‘lengthy and sometimes contentious.’

“In fact he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time – months or even years,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said of the President.

.@SenSchumer: "We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time. Months or even years."#GovernmentShutdown pic.twitter.com/rW05LH3nlq

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2019

The two hour meeting came a day after the House – now under Democratic Party control – approved two different funding bills to end the partial shutdown, and give both sides until February 8 to reach a deal related to border funding.

But on Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear that the House-passed bills would not be brought before the Senate for a vote, meaning the partial shutdown would continue into next week.

“The package presented by the House’s new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time wasting act,” said McConnell, even though much of the package had already been either voted on, or agreed to, by Senators in both parties late in 2018.

“Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the President,” McConnell said, as GOP leaders don’t want to start work on a possible deal without knowing that the White House is on board.

It was just two weeks ago that the Senate voted unanimously to extend funding for about one-quarter of the federal government into February – told that the President would support the move.

Then he changed his mind on the Friday before Christmas, leading to the current funding lapse, which started December 22.

Economy chalks up strong jobs growth in December

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 14:16

The U.S. economy kicked into a higher gear in the final month of 2018 as new figures released by the Labor Department said 312,000 jobs were created in the month of December, as the nation’s jobless rate ticked up to 3.9 percent – mainly because more Americans continue to get back into the job market to look for work.

“Jobs growth remains robust,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, the Chief Economist at LendingTree, as December was the second largest month of job growth in 2018, behind only the 324,000 jobs created in February.

“The 99th straight month of gains indicates that labor market remains robust and that the economy remains quite strong despite recent turmoil in the financial markets,” Kapfidze added.

GOP leaders in Congress – and the President – immediately hailed the latest jobs news.

GREAT JOBS NUMBERS JUST ANNOUNCED!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2019

#MAGA "Payrolls growth totaled 2.6 million in 2018, the highest since 2015 and well above the 2.2 million in 2017." https://t.co/othgv7TSVb

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 4, 2019

“Lower taxes and smarter regulations work,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

With jobs numbers revised upwards in both October and November, the raw job creation numbers for 2018 showed a marked increase over a year earlier – the 2018 monthly average was 219,833 jobs created, compared to the 2017 monthly average of 182,333 jobs created.

While the unemployment rate went up two-tenths of one percent in December, to 3.9 percent, much of that could be attributed to a recent four month growth spurt in the size of the labor force, as 419,000 people started looking for a job again last month.

That was in addition to increases in the labor pool of almost one million people from September, October and November combined.

The U6 rate – considered the broadest measure of unemployment – ticked up slightly in December as well to 7.6 percent, but that’s still well below the 9.3 percent level when President Trump took office in January of 2017.

The number of people working part-time in December – because they could not find a full-time job – went down, as 124,000 people reported they had been able to move to a 40 hour a week job.

If January is a positive jobs month – and that could be clouded by the ongoing partial government shutdown – that would mark the 100th straight month of positive monthly job growth, which is an unusually long amount of time for the economy to keep chugging in the right direction.

2018 was the best year for US job gains since 2015, a strong showing so late in this business cycle.

2018: 2.638 million jobs
2017: 2.188 million jobs
2016: 2.344 million jobs
2015: 2.712 million jobs
2014: 3.005 million jobs #jobs

— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) January 4, 2019

“The December jobs statement contains some positive news, yet these gains threaten to slip away because of the Trump Shutdown,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump threatens vetoes as House passes bills to end partial shutdown

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 02:47

With no signs of any agreement to end a funding lapse for part of the federal government which began on December 22, Democrats in the House on Thursday night approved a pair of funding plans to re-open a series of federal departments and agencies, drawing an immediate veto threat from President Donald Trump, as Republicans said the House-passed spending plans would go nowhere in the U.S. Senate, ensuring that the shutdown standoff over money for the President’s border wall would continue into the weekend.

“If either H.R. 21 or H.J. Res. 1 were presented to the President, his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the White House said in a veto threat against the plans passed by House Democrats in the opening hours of the 116th Congress.

Hours after Democrats elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and took charge of the House, lawmakers voted along party lines to approve to plans to resume funding for agencies now in a shutdown.

One measure would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8, to give both sides more time to negotiate a deal over the President’s demand for $5.6 billion in border wall funding – the second measure would combine six spending bills to fund the Departments of Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, and major agencies like NASA, the EPA, Securities and Exchange Commission, and more, which have furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay.

In an appearance before reporters in the White House Briefing Room – his first such visit in almost two years in office – the President again said he would not sign any bill to re-open the government until Congress approved more money for border security.

“Without a wall, you cannot have border security,” the President told reporters. “Without a very strong form of barrier – call it what you will – but without a wall, you cannot have border security. It won’t work.”

While the President brought representatives of the border patrol with him to bolster his arguments, Mr. Trump did not answer any questions from reporters about the spending standoff.

Up on Capitol Hill, Democrats were just as dug in, as House leaders said there was no way they would give the President a dollar for a wall.

“The fact is, a wall is an immorality,” Speaker Pelosi said at a Thursday evening news conference in the Capitol, just hours after she was elected to lead the House in the 116th Congress.

“This is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the President is creating here,” Pelosi said, “it’s a wall between reality and his constituents,” as Democrats denounced the border wall as a “14th Century” technique.

Democrats also mocked the President over his familiar campaign promise on who would pay for the border wall, saying the President is sticking taxpayers with the bill.

“Where is the Mexico funding?” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) on the House floor.

The new House-passed bills were not only going nowhere with the President, but also earned a quick rebuke from Republican leaders in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democratic funding measures would not be voted on – meaning there would be no immediate resolution to the partial shutdown.

“Bottom line -if there’s NO wall, there’s NO DEAL,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on Thursday night.

“Today’s funding bill stands no chance in the Senate, or with President Trump,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL).

“We are in a standoff here,” said Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC).

Democrats scoffed at the White House opposition.

“We must open this government,” declared Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).

“Holding 800,000 federal employees and the government hostage is not what the American people want,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

“This country – of all countries in the world – should never build a wall,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY).

How long will the shutdown continue?

“My hope is in the next week we’ll see this resolved,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as GOP lawmakers said a resolution was more likely now that Democrats were in charge of the House.

The bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8 was approved 239-192, with five Republicans joining all Democrats in favor of the plan, which would continue over $1 billion in border security funding.

The second measure to combine six other unfinished spending bills for the rest of the 2019 fiscal year was approved on a similar vote along party lines.

The bills go to the Senate, where GOP leaders have made no plans to bring them to a vote.

House Democrats pass new ethics rules, create new climate change panel

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 00:21

Hours after taking control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, Democrats on Thursday night approved a series of rules changes to force lawmakers – and not taxpayers – to pay any legal judgments against members concerning treatment of House employees, and sets up a special committee to examine issues related to climate change.

“This rules package will restore power to the American people,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, as Democrats swiftly tried to put their imprint on the 116th Congress, by making a series of reforms dealing with ethics, the budget process, making it easier to bring bipartisan legislation up for a votes – as well as take action related to the issue of global warming.

“We intend to press for urgent action in defense of America and our way of life,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who has been named by new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the special panel, as Democrats criticized Republicans for ignoring the issue during their eight years in charge of the House.

“We want to make clean energy a pillar of our economy,” Castor said.

In terms of ethics reforms under this package, the Democratic plan would not only require lawmakers to pay any judgments dealing with sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, but also any legal awards against them which touch on discrimination based on religion, race, sex, and other matters.

The plan also extends the ban on sexual relationships between lawmakers and House employees to those who serve on House committees.

New ethics rules would also require any lawmaker indicted or charged with a felony to step down from any leadership post and committees while those allegations are dealt with.

It would also require more speedy action by the House Ethics Committee to review such cases; the plan would directly impact two GOP lawmakers now under federal indictment, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – who has been charged with misuse of over $250,000 in campaign funds – and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who is under indictment for insider trading.

Both Republicans have trials scheduled to start later this year; in the interim, they will not be allowed to sit on any House committees.

On the budget, the plan reinstates what’s known as the “PAYGO” rules – forcing Congress to pay-as-you-go for programs.

Democrats said it was necessary after the GOP didn’t come close to balancing the budget over the first two years of the Trump Administration.

Numbers posted today by @USTreasury show the National Debt ended 2018 more than $2-trillion larger than on the day Pres Trump took office. It represents a 10% increase in the Debt on Pres Trump's watch. National Debt now stands at $21.974-trillion. 1/2

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) January 3, 2019

“What the majority has presided over is record breaking deficits,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as he blasted Republicans over spending, armed with new figures showing that the overall federal debt has gone up more than $2 trillion since President Trump took office in January of 2017.

Originally, the inclusion of the PAYGO rules had triggered outrage among some liberals, worried it would hamper any Democratic efforts on Medicare-for-all and other Democratic priorities. But in the end, only three Democrats voted against the plan, while three Republicans voted for it.

Most Republicans criticized one of the changes in the Democratic rules plan, which would allow the House to automatically raise the debt ceiling, without forcing a direct vote on the matter.

“The Democrat rules package is a step in the WRONG direction,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

But for the first time in eight years, Republicans found themselves in a different position – in the minority – and unable to set the agenda in the House, as the rules package was agreed to on a vote of 234-197.

No signs of progress in talks to end partial government shutdown

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 23:01

Even as President Donald Trump and GOP leaders in Congress expressed optimism about reaching a deal to end a funding fight over money for the President’s border wall, the first substantive talks between the White House and Congressional leaders since before Christmas produced no obvious progress on Wednesday, as the dispute was assured of sliding into the new Congress, which convenes at 12 noon on Thursday.

“I don’t think any particular progress was made,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters as he returned to the Capitol from a bipartisan leadership meeting at the White House.

McConnell told reporters that it could take days – or even weeks – to reach a deal, as a new round of talks does not seem likely until Friday.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, unless you are willing to build a wall,” the President told reporters, during an extended photo opportunity with top Cabinet officials at the White House.

“We need the wall for the security of our country,” Mr. Trump added.

The President raised the possibility of a deal to gain the $5.6 billion in border security funds approved by Republicans in the House before Christmas, floating the idea of horse trading that would involve legal status for some younger children of illegal immigrant parents under DACA, and protections for some refugees who have a temporary protected status in the U.S.

But Democrats were expressing little interest in that type of deal making in public, ready to forge ahead with their own plans on Thursday, as the House – after Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as Speaker – will move to approve legislation that funds those agencies and departments which are now under a partial government shutdown.

“We’re asking the President to open up government,” Speaker-Designate Pelosi said outside the White House.

“They are now feeling the heat,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, as both parties tried to portray the other as the one deserving the blame for the shutdown, and casting the other as refusing to cut any agreement.

But the Senate Majority Leader made clear that the Democratic plans will go nowhere in the Senate after Thursday – leaving the Congress in the exact same position – with no funding for about one quarter of the federal government.

In just under 2 mins, McConnell described the bill House Dems plan to pass to re-open the govt:
– "a total non-starter"
– "a political sideshow"
– "partisan show votes"
– "political performance art"
– "not be a serious contribution to the negotiations"

Says Trump won't sign it.

— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) January 3, 2019

.@NancyPelosi: "We're asking the president to open up government. We are giving him a Republican path to do that. Why would he not do it?" pic.twitter.com/f9lqSDn5bc

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 2, 2019

Border security is national security. Let’s keep America SAFE and end the #SchumerShutdown pic.twitter.com/obV9GhaR2b

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 2, 2019

Regardless of which party one believes is right or wrong, the events of Wednesday made clear that the 115th Congress will end on a rather inglorious note, with about 800,000 federal workers either on furlough, or working without getting a paycheck, including those who are involved in the fight against illegal immigration.

“I have always said we should never shutdown the government and governing this way is embarrassing for both Democrats and Republicans,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The shutdown started to have more and more of an impact on Wednesday, as agencies which had been working on leftover and extra funding started shutting down operations – like the Smithsonian Museums in Washington – closing their doors because of the lack of funding.

An array of government websites were also on hold, with notices splashed across their home pages that the sites were not being updated during the funding lapse.

“Content on this website will not be current of maintained until funding issues have been resolved,” read a notice from the Department of Agriculture.

“Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed,” it said on the home page of the Transportation Security Administration, where thousands will keep working at airports – without pay – for as long as the funding standoff continues.

Other agencies were squeezing out what extra cash they had, like the Federal Communications Commission, which plans to ‘suspend most operations’ on Thursday.

“At that time, employees will have up to four hours to complete an orderly shutdown of operations,” the FCC wrote in a notice.

For now, no one knows when that funding dispute will be resolved.

House Democrats unveil proposed rules changes for 116th Congress

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 16:40

With the 116th Congress set to convene on Thursday afternoon, House Democrats have rolled out a package of rules updates for the chamber which put their party’s imprint on the workings of the House, covering everything from making lawmakers pay for legal judgments against them, to technical changes in budget rules, to a plan to speed through resolutions allowing Congress to raise the debt limit, and creation of a special panel on future changes to the U.S. House.

“It restores the people’s voice by aligning Congress’ agenda with the priorities of the American people,” wrote Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and new House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA).

The proposed changes plow some familiar ground, as Republicans and Democrats change certain items in a back-and-forth manner, depending on which party controls the House, but also contain some substantive changes on the consideration of legislation, ethics reforms, and how the House operates.

Here are some highlights from the Democratic rules plan:

1. Members required to pay for all types of discrimination settlements. Not satisfied with the details of a bill agreed to in late December by the House and Senate, which requires lawmakers – and not taxpayers – to pay for any settlements involving sexual harassment, the new House rules would require lawmakers to be financially responsible for any discrimination judgment against them, whether it involves sexual misconduct, or discrimination based upon race, religion, disability, and more. A separate rules change would also prohibit sexual relationships between members and committee staffers. Currently, that prohibition only applies to staffers who are directly employed by the lawmaker.




2. Immediate actions against indicted lawmakers. With two Republican lawmakers now under indictment, a new rule from Democrats would officially say that any lawmaker charged with a felony must step aside from any committee and leadership positions until the criminal case is disposed of. A separate new rule would also ban anyone employed by the House – whether a member, staffer, or official – from serving on a corporate board. That’s an issue for Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who faces charges of insider trading involving a biotech company in Australia. Not only was Collins the largest shareholder of Innate Immunotherapeutics, but also a member of Innate’s board of directors. Another rule change would force the Ethics Committee to immediately pursue an investigation involving a lawmaker who has been indicted or charged with a crime.




3. Democrats would create two new Select Committees. The first new House panel to be set up by Democrats has been known for some time – a committee to specifically examine the issue of climate change – which will be led by by Rep. Cathy Castor (D-FL). The second special panel will be on the “Modernization of Congress” – and will be tasked to look at how best to fashion rules, scheduling, technology, staff, and more to ‘promote a more modern and efficient Congress.’




4. Back and forth. Back and forth. The two parties obviously see things differently on a number of policy matters, and those differences extend to how the House is run as well. Now that Democrats are back in charge, they will again change the name of one House panel to what they like, the Committee on Education and Labor. Republicans had renamed the panel, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. And the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be renamed the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Also, Democrats will restore the right of delegates from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, to vote in certain situations when bills were being amended in the House, but not on votes for final passage of legislation. Democrats gave the delegates those voting rights in 1993, and Republicans took it away in 1995. Democrats restored that in 2007. Republicans took it away in 2011. Democrats will restore it again in 2019.




5. New limits on efforts to depose a Speaker. After watching members of the House Freedom Caucus threaten to oust a pair of House GOP Speakers in recent years, the new Democratic rules package will limit the ability of lawmakers to force a vote during a session to push out a Speaker, using what is known as a ‘motion to vacate’ the chair. Under the new rules proposed by Democrats, any motion to vacate would have to be offered at the direction of the leadership of one of the parties – in other words, a single lawmaker or a small group of lawmakers could not force such a procedural vote in hopes of deposing a Speaker – instead, they would need the majority support of their party to be able to make that attempt on the floor of the House. Currently, just a small number of members could oust a Speaker – who needs a majority of 218 votes to be elected.




6. A “real” 72-hour rule for legislation. When Republicans took over the House after the Obama health law, there was a lot of talk in GOP circles about “READ THE BILL” – and in order to have enough time, Republicans instituted a three-day rule to allow lawmakers time to look at legislation. But what it turned into was a procedure where a bill would be unveiled around 11:30 pm on a Tuesday – that would be day one – then after a second day, the bill would be voted on early on day three. So, it wasn’t a true 3-day rule. Democrats say they are going to have a real 72-hour clock, which would start running when the legislation is posted online. I don’t want to be the cynical curmudgeon in the Press Gallery – but I’ll believe this when I see it.




7. Hats not okay – religious headwear is fine. Another change in the House rules being proposed by the Democrats would deal with what lawmakers can wear on the floor. Currently, you cannot wear a hat on the floor. The only time I can remember a lawmaker wearing a hat was over in the Senate, after one Republican Senate had undergone brain surgery, and wore a baseball cap for a few weeks to cover the scars on his head. Other than that, hats are verboten. But with a new Muslim Democrat from Minnesota, Rep.-Elect Ilhan Omar, the rules would be changed to allow her to wear a religious headscarf on the House floor.




8. Various legislative provisions are also in this rules plan. The sixty page rules package – which can be read here – and a section-by-section analysis here – also has some legislative items tucked into it. The plan would make in order the funding bills that Democrats want to pass to end the partial government shutdown which started on December 22. It would also basically end any votes on raising the debt limit on the House floor, “deeming” a separate resolution that suspends that debt limit through September 30 of the budget year, and sends that on to the Senate – what is known as the “Gephardt Rule,” after ex-Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO). The rules plan also does away with the simple motion to table a measure on the War Powers Act – in other words, it would prevent the majority from quickly blocking votes on efforts to force debate on the use of U.S. military force, as just happened a few weeks ago when Republicans in the House blocked action on any plan dealing with an end to U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen. The plan also makes several technical changes in the most recent budget agreement from 2018. My father always told me technical changes are never done just because a comma needs to be moved.




9. PAYGO is back. Dynamic scoring is out. For you Legislative Nerds on Capitol Hill, this one might get talked about at lunch on Wednesday – while for much of the country, no one will notice. But the new Democratic rules package will again institute what are known as “pay-as-you-go” rules, which require some semblance of budgetary order in the House. If you are going to add spending, and it increases the deficit, then you need to offset that, and find a way to pay for it. That’s not exactly what some Democratic activists were hoping for in the Democratic rules package. Also, the use of ‘dynamic scoring’ to calculate how tax policy changes impact the budget deficit will no longer be allowed. Expect the PAYGO change to draw some fire from more liberal Democrats who believe it would stand in the way of social safety net legislation.

Well I tried, but paygo remains in the rules for the 116th Congress, albeit with some exemptions. https://t.co/Gl4P3U7oG1 pic.twitter.com/ZYWNJvgx8m

— David Dayen (@ddayen) January 2, 2019

10. A new “Consensus Calendar.” This rules change would allow pieces of legislation which are backed by a veto-proof majority in the House of 290 votes, to get time on the floor for debate and a vote. Along with changes in the Discharge Petition process, the new rules are designed to open up new avenues to get bills and resolutions to the floor which otherwise might be squashed by the majority party. More than likely, these plans would allow votes on issues that have extra support among the minority party – but could also pave the way for bipartisan legislation that cuts across both parties, and gets around opposition within the leadership.




This plan is expected to be voted on Thursday, after the vote on elevating Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the post of Speaker of the House.

Pelosi will be the first person to regain the post of Speaker – after serving time in the minority – since Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) did that in the 1950’s, when the House chamber switched between Democrat and Republican control.

115th Congress wraps up amid partial government shutdown

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 09:00

As dozens of new lawmakers arrive in Washington, D.C. to start their jobs as members of the House and Senate on Thursday, the 115th Congress is limping to a messy adjournment scenario, with GOP leaders unable to find a solution to end a partial government shutdown, leaving the budget battle over President Donald Trump’s border wall to the new Congress as Democrats prepare to take charge of the House on Thursday when the 116th Congress convenes.

The House is scheduled to convene at noon on Wednesday; the Senate will gavel in at 4 pm – but no votes are scheduled at this point on any legislation related to the shutdown, in what are the final hours of the 115th Congress.

While President Trump went on Twitter to tell Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “Let’s make a deal?” Pelosi seemed uninterested, focused on taking charge in the 116th Congress and taking a different route than the one preferred by the White House, as Congressional leaders will meet with Mr. Trump on Wednesday for the first time since the partial shutdown began – though it wasn’t clear if Democrats would show up for that meeting.

Border Security and the Wall “thing” and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019

.@realDonaldTrump has given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown – just the first sign of things to come in our new Democratic Majority committed to working #ForThePeople. https://t.co/CGl1euCotB

— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 1, 2019

No deal is anticipated on Wednesday, as House Democrats led by Pelosi, who takes charge of the House on Thursday, have already made plans to move within hours to approve a funding plan which would fully re-open the federal government, under a partial shutdown scenario since December 22.

“The new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government on Day One,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).

But even if the House approves that plan, it seems unlikely to go through the Senate – leaving the shutdown situation the same, whether at the end of the 115th Congress, or the start of the 116th Congress.

“Shutdowns benefit no one,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

This shutdown does not impact all agencies of the federal government, as the military, Congress, departments of labor, health, energy, and the VA are among those which have been funded.

But others like the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and agencies like NASA, EPA, and more remain shuttered, with some 800,000 workers uncertain of when they’ll be paid next, whether they have been furloughed, or are being forced to work as ‘essential’ personnel.

One of the more puzzling parts of the government shutdown fight over the last week has been the lack of public comment by President Trump – yes, he has been getting his message out on Twitter daily, but the President has not appeared before television cameras at the White House since Christmas Day.

The @JakeSherman point from a few days ago gains more traction each day Trump spends out of sight: what was the point of keeping him in DC if he wasn’t gonna use the bully pulpit to try to win wall fight?

— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) December 31, 2018

Mr. Trump had planned to spend 16 days at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, but canceled that in order to stay at the White House for the shutdown – but he had little to show for that decision, other than a lengthy list of tweets.

That will evidently change on Wednesday with a meeting between Congressional leaders and the President, just hours before the 115th Congress comes to an end.

Five things you might have missed during the holiday break

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 09:00

While the political focus of the nation’s capital has been on the partial government shutdown which started on December 22 – a legislative fight which shows no signs of ending anytime soon – there was more news out of Washington, D.C. than just the question of whether the President will get any money out of the Congress for his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.

As President Donald Trump gave up his planned 16 day stay at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, the Congress went home for the holidays, making no real effort to reach agreement on how to end the funding lapse that has endangered the paychecks of an estimated 800,000 federal workers.

But there was more – here’s some of what happened during the holiday break:

1. Trump moves to freeze federal worker pay. At the same time that about 800,000 federal workers were unsure of when their next paycheck would arrive, because of a partial government shutdown, President Trump issued an executive order blocking a scheduled 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal workers, a move which drew scorn from both parties. “Congress must reject the President’s imprudent decision to cancel the percent pay increase for our valuable federal civilian employees,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). “What a terrible way to ring in the new year as the President helps his billionaire buddies profit off the GOP tax scam,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).

This shutdown isn’t enough for Trump. His pay freeze for civil servants is going into effect—while hundreds of thousands of them are furloughed or working without pay. I’m pushing for a 1.9% COLA on the appropriations bill, and I won’t stop until we get it done. https://t.co/UZHzZ8w2EM

— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) December 30, 2018

2. Trump tells whopper about military pay raise. During President Trump’s surprise Christmas visit to see U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, the President said the military should be thanking him for a large pay raise of 10 percent, which Mr. Trump said was the first pay raise for the military in more than ten years. “Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent. Because it’s been a long time. It’s been more than 10 years. It’s been more than 10 years,” the President said. Except none of what the President said was true. Even the Pentagon has a web page showing the basic military pay raises over the last 11 years – ranging from a high of 3.9 percent in 2009 down to 1 percent in both 2014 and 2015. But every single year there has been a pay raise for the military for several decades. The pay raise for 2018 is 2.4 percent – not 10 percent as the President said in Iraq.

Bad news, folks: Troops aren't getting a 10 percent pay raise next year, no matter what Trump said in Iraq https://t.co/rraMRMWLdc

— Leo Shane III (@LeoShane) December 27, 2018

3. House GOP quietly ends Clinton email, Trump-Russia review. After a series of closed door hearings with former FBI Director James Comey and others, Republicans in the House quietly ended their investigation of how the FBI and Justice Department dealt with both the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server from her time as Secretary of State, and how the investigation developed into possible ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. Instead of a report, GOP lawmakers issued a seven page letter last Friday night, basically asking Senate Republicans to keep investigating, saying there were “troubling facts” which need further explanation. But the letter issued no conclusions about actual wrongdoing, as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – who are both leaving Congress this week – said a fuller accounting is still needed. Democrats said it showed the GOP was using the investigation as a diversion from the Special Counsel probe.

Gowdy and Goodlatte acknowledge they essentially didn’t get to finish their investigation of the FBI and DOJ, ask successors and GOP senators to continue investigating. pic.twitter.com/z8h8mRFU0G

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 28, 2018

4. Mystery subpoena case reaches U.S. Supreme Court. No one knows what the case, “In Re Grand Jury Subpoena” is about, but many experts believe it touches on the Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – and if that’s the case – one part of it is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts has accepted briefs from some involved in the case, which a federal appeals court said in a ruling touches on a foreign company that is owned by an unnamed foreign government. It’s not clear what this case is all about, what country is involved, what company, etc. But it’s not every day that the U.S. Supreme Court accepts secret briefs.

New rounds of sealed documents filed in the super-secret mystery case – In Re Grand Jury Subpoena – which is now before the US Supreme Court pic.twitter.com/XBRPcHjYYC

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) December 29, 2018

5. Trump ousts Defense Secretary two months early. After first announcing that Defense Secretary James Mattis – who resigned in protest over President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, and reduce troops levels in Afghanistan – the President basically fired Mattis two days before Christmas, announcing on Twitter that Mattis would leave on New Year’s Eve. Mattis sent out a farewell message to the military on Monday which referenced the Civil War, urging Pentagon officials and the troops to defend the Constitution. Just as his resignation letter raised eyebrows about his differences with President Trump, so too did the Mattis “Farewell Message.” Mattis quoted a message from Lincoln to Grant: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.”

JUST IN: Mattis's farewell letter trolls Trump, urges troops to remain "undistracted" from defending the Constitution, expresses faith in leadership, quotes Lincoln's note to Grant, "Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans." pic.twitter.com/Q53QkWojBW

— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) December 31, 2018

No end in sight for partial shutdown as new Congress convenes Thursday

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 01:43

A funding lapse for part of the federal government which started on December 22 shows no signs of ending in Washington, with President Donald Trump continuing to blame Democrats for not backing his plans for a wall along the Mexican border, as GOP leaders in Congress have no votes scheduled on the partial government shutdown, seemingly leaving the next step in this political battle to Democrats – who will take charge of the House when the 116th Congress convenes at 12 noon on January 3.

In a letter to House Democrats this weekend, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said the first order of business before the House on Thursday would be a plan that includes both rules changes for the House, and funding for federal agencies now under a shutdown.

On New Year’s Eve, Democrats released the text of an over 1,000 page bill, which would combine six different spending measures for 2019; the seventh spending bill – for the Department of Homeland Security – would be left on a short-term funding plan through February 8.

“Our legislation reopens government services, ensures workers get the paychecks they’ve earned and restores certainty to the lives of the American people,” Pelosi said.

But there was one clear difference with the President.

“The legislation includes no new funding for President Trump’s border wall,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who will be the new head of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Didn’t Trump say Mexico was going to pay for the wall?

No negotiating is necessary, he needs stop the government #shutdown and not hold the paychecks of federal employees hostage.

This is on him, not anyone else! https://t.co/cLw1Z4vhVq

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 30, 2018

For those that naively ask why didn’t the Republicans get approval to build the Wall over the last year, it is because IN THE SENATE WE NEED 10 DEMOCRAT VOTES, and they will gives us “NONE” for Border Security! Now we have to do it the hard way, with a Shutdown. Too bad! @FoxNews

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2018

Instead of going on a planned 16 day break at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, the President has been at the White House, jabbing at Democrats on Twitter, but making few public comments to reporters or television cameras about the shutdown battle.

“I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” the President tweeted over the weekend, sending out a mix of messages tweaking Democrats about the shutdown, and venting his frustration with the Russia investigation.

There has been no legislative action at all in Congress on the shutdown since before Christmas – GOP leaders in the House and Senate did not keep those legislative bodies at work, as lawmakers and leaders alike went on their planned holiday vacations, or back home with family and friends.

For example on Sunday, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) – who will be the new Majority Whip of the Senate on Thursday – tweeted out a photo of himself on a pheasant hunt.

The Senate will return at 4 pm on Wednesday – just twenty hours before the new Congress convenes; no votes are on the schedule at this time about the shutdown, as the working assumption on Capitol Hill is that the 115th Congress will end without solving this funding dispute.

The House will also be back on Wednesday afternoon, but most of the work going on in the House right now is on the transition from Republican to Democratic Party control, as Nancy Pelosi gets ready to take the Speaker’s gavel from Paul Ryan, who has been silent about the shutdown over the holiday break.

If Democrats want to actually come to the table and present a different plan to deal with the crisis at our border, let’s hear it. But merely proposing and accepting the status quo is not a serious solution. pic.twitter.com/TGCHoDlspg

— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) December 30, 2018

What Trump said then:

Mexico will pay for the wall. I promise.
I am proud to shut down the government for border security.
I will be the one to shut it down.

What he says now:

Taxpayers must pay for the wall.
The Democrats own the shutdown.

Promise made. Promises broken.

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 30, 2018

If no breakthrough occurs by noon on Thursday – when the 116th Congress convenes – then Democrats will push a funding plan through the House, and send that to the Senate, likely with no money for the President’s border wall.

Because of rules on the filibuster, and budget laws which would require 60 votes for approval of any border wall funding, Republicans don’t have enough votes to pass what the President wants done on immigration in the Senate.

But there also probably aren’t enough votes to approve what Democrats will get through the House on Thursday.

The impact of the shutdown so far has been limited, but will ratchet up as the federal government goes back to work on Wednesday.

Most of the 800,000 federal workers hit by the partial shutdown were paid as scheduled at the end of December – though it took a late change by the Coast Guard for paychecks to go out – but those will be the last checks for those workers who have been furloughed, or who are still on the job as essential workers.

On Wednesday, all the of the Smithsonian Museums will close down – all of the Smithsonian facilities in Washington, D.C. have been kept open during the holiday break despite the funding lapse, drawing huge crowds of tourists in recent days.

But that will end on January 2.

For federal workers who are impacted by the shutdown, it’s a time of deep uncertainty when it comes to their personal finances, as they wonder when their next paycheck will arrive.

At this point, the answer seems to be simple – not any time soon.

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