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The U.S. Government Shutdown Might End, Here’s How

Democrats know a deal with Trump could alienate liberals, and are loath to show Trump that they would fold during future confrontations.

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People rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Somehow, some day, the nasty deadlock between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats that’s shuttered federal agencies for a record-tying 21 days will end. The only real questions are when, how and who will be crowned the winner in public opinion polls and ultimately by voters.

Things got bleaker this week when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Trump at a fiery White House meeting that Democrats would not bow to his demand for $5.7 billion to start building a wall along the border with Mexico. Trump slammed his hand on the negotiating table and stormed out, Democrats said. Trump said he calmly left the room, saying, “Bye-bye.”

A look at how the impasse might be resolved:

Q: What’s the easiest solution?

A: None is easy. Trump’s conservative base strongly backs his fight for wall money, even if it has meant a partial government shutdown. Democrats’ liberal stalwarts just as ardently oppose giving in. Trump and Democratic leaders have been so insistent on not surrendering that each would risk rebellion by supporters if they agreed to something viewed as a capitulation.

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A U.S. Internal Revenue Services employee holds signs in front of the federal building at a rally against the U.S. federal government shutdown, in Ogden, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Q: What’s the likeliest way out?

A: Increasingly some people think that could be for Trump to declare a national emergency. By law, that could give him authority to use some money in the military’s budget for construction projects for the wall.

It’s a tactic that could let each side claim a partial victory and move on.

Trump could argue he did secure money for the wall, his most memorable campaign pledge, and overcame Democratic objections. Democrats could say they didn’t give in and they could file suits to block the move, claiming Trump had exceeded his authority by stretching the meaning of emergency. Trump could decide to finally sign bills reopening the government.

Leaving the White House Thursday to visit the southwestern border, Trump strongly suggested he would take that route. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he told reporters. He added: “If I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it.”

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The Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum is seen shuttered during the partial government shutdown, Jan. 4, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Q: Why not just do it?

A: Plenty of people on both sides hate the idea, and its legality in this instance is questionable.

Some Republicans, including Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, say strengthening border infrastructure is not the military’s job and they oppose siphoning defense dollars for that purpose. Many Republicans worry that by stretching the definition of “emergency,” Trump opens the door to a future Democratic president circumventing lawmakers in ways the GOP would oppose.

Democrats would consider the move a fresh example of Trump abusing his authority as president. They say it would be a ploy to bypass Congress and that there’s no emergency on the border, where the number of illegal crossings has fallen in recent years.

While the law doesn’t clearly define a national emergency, some experts say a declaration here would be unwarranted.

“The idea was that the executive would have these powers on a limited basis for true emergencies,” said Andrew Boyle, who studies presidential emergency powers at the Brennan Center for Justice, which is affiliated with New York University. He said declaring a national emergency at the border would be “clearly in bad faith.”

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A border patrol office inside his vehicle guards the border fence at the U.S. side of San Diego, Calif., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 2, 2019. VOA

Q: Polls show the public blames Trump more than Democrats for the shutdown. Will Republicans fold?

A: Some GOP lawmakers have had enough, especially in the Senate. Reflecting that, a group of GOP senators has talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and White House officials about forging a compromise, though that seems an uphill battle.

Ultimately McConnell, a tough partisan also renowned for ending previous battles by cutting bipartisan deals, will decide the GOP’s path. It will take more than a few Republican defections for McConnell to abandon Trump.

Ever since Trump reversed himself and turned down an agreement to avoid the shutdown before Christmas, McConnell has stepped aside, saying Trump and Democrats should bargain.

Democrats have been trying to pressure McConnell, quoting his past ridicule of shutdowns and citing the damage the current one is inflicting on voters. With hundreds of thousands of federal workers due to miss their first paychecks Friday and constituents complaining about losing government services, pressure will only intensify.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters after meeting with President Donald Trump about border security in the Situation Room of the White House, Jan. 4, 2019. VOA

“I think public sentiment weighing in on his members” will change his mind, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a brief interview. “He’s a legislator.”

“He’s watching, he’s waiting,” said retired Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Q: What about Democrats?

A: They’ve shown no outward signs of divisions. If anything, Trump’s recent actions — leaving Wednesday’s negotiating session, seeming to blame Democrats for the recent deaths of two Guatemalan children in U.S. custody — have united them more.

“Democrats’ reaction ranges from angry to enraged,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

Also Read: U.S. Passes A Bill Promising Federal Workers’ Their Pay After The U.S. Shutdown Ends

Q: Is there a deal to be had?

A: That seems increasingly unlikely. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other Republicans have explored a compromise that might include border security money plus helping hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children stay in this country. But Vice President Mike Pence and Graham reported no progress after a meeting Thursday.

Democrats know a deal with Trump could alienate liberals, and are loath to show Trump that they would fold during future confrontations.

They also don’t trust him. Pelosi said Trump has moved the goalposts so often that “pretty soon these goal posts won’t even be in the stadium.” (VOA)

Next Story

Trump’s Deep Misunderstanding of Trade Policy is Threatening the American Economy

President Donald Trump's aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups

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FILE - Steel rods produced at the Gerdau Ameristeel mill in St. Paul, Minn., await shipment, May 9, 2019. The recent flareup with the U.S. over Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. VOA

President Donald Trump’s aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups, which have long formed a potent force in his Republican Party. Trade

Corporate America was blindsided last week when Trump threatened to impose crippling taxes on Mexican imports in a push to stop the flow of Central American migrants into the United States.

The two sides reached a truce Friday after Mexico agreed to do more to stop the migrants. But by Monday, Trump was again threatening the tariffs if Mexico didn’t abide by an unspecified commitment, to “be revealed in the not too distant future.”

Such whipsawing is now a hallmark of Trump’s trade policy. The president repeatedly threatens tariffs, sometimes imposes them, sometimes suspends them, sometimes threatens them again. Or drops them.

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FILE – Traffic moves on the old Gerald Desmond Bridge next to its replacement bridge under construction in Long Beach, Calif., July 2, 2018. President Donald Trump’s tariffs provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. VOA

Business groups, already uncomfortable with Trump’s attempts to stem immigration, are struggling to figure out where to stand in the fast-shifting political climate. They have happily supported Trump’s corporate tax cuts and moves to loosen environmental and other regulations. But the capriciousness of Trump’s use of tariffs has proved alarming.

“Business is losing,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and frequent Trump critic. “He calls himself ‘Mr. Tariff man.’ He’s proud of it. … It’s bad news for the party. It’s bad news for the free market.”

Also Read- U.S. Pentagon Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Portugal, Study Finds

“It was a good wakeup call for business,” James Jones, chairman of Monarch Global Strategies and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said of Trump’s abrupt move to threaten to tax Mexican goods.

Creating distance from Trump

Just last week, the sprawling network led by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch announced the creation of several political action committees focused on policy — including one devoted to free trade — to back Republicans or Democrats who break with Trump’s trade policies. A powerful force in Republican politics, the network is already a year into a “multi-year multi-million dollar” campaign to promote the dangers of tariff and protectionist trade policies.

The Chamber of Commerce, too, is in the early phases of disentangling itself from the Republican Party after decades of loyalty. The Chamber, which spent at least $29 million largely to help Republicans in the 2016 election, announced earlier this year that it would devote more time and attention to Democrats on Capitol Hill while raising the possibility of supporting Democrats in 2020.

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FILE – A field of soybeans is seen in front of a barn carrying a large Trump sign in rural Ashland, Neb., July 24, 2018. President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. VOA

Few expect the Chamber or business-backed groups like the Koch network to suddenly embrace Democrats in a significant way. But even a subtle shift to withhold support from vulnerable Republican candidates could make a difference in 2020.

Trump’s boundless enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. It has left the party’s traditional allies in the business world struggling to maintain political relevance in the Trump era.

Also Read- Canon Doing Research and Feasibility Studies to Explore the Possibility of Manufacturing its Products in India

Uncertainty for businesses

Trump’s tariffs are taxes paid by American importers and are typically passed along to their customers. They can provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. And they can paralyze businesses, uncertain about where they should buy supplies or situate factories.

“Knowing the rules helps us plan for the future,” said Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori, a cheese company that has had to contend with retaliatory tariffs in Mexico in an earlier dispute.

Trump seems unfazed.

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FILE – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa speaks at a town hall meeting in Greenfield, Iowa, June 2, 2017. VOA

Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, went on CNBC on Monday to decry “the weaponization of tariffs” as a threat to the U.S. economy and to relations with trading partners.

Trump responded by phoning in to the network to declare “I guess he’s not so brilliant” and defend his trade policies.

“Tariffs,” he said, “are a beautiful thing.”

Trump can afford to be confident about his grip over the party: Roughly nine in 10 rank-and-file Republicans support his performance as president, according to the latest Gallup polling. So Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to tangle with him.

Also Read- Apple to Bring Bigger Battery in its Upcoming 2019 iPhone Offerings

But last week’s flareup over the Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. The spat was especially alarming to businesses because it came seemingly out of nowhere. Less than two weeks earlier, Trump had lifted tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum — action that seemed to signal warmer commercial ties between the United States and its neighbors.

“This really came out of left field,” said Daniel Ujczo, a trade lawyer at Dickinson Wright. “It was something we thought we had settled, and we hadn’t.”

Weighing legislation

Congress was already showing signs of wariness, especially over Trump’s decision to dust off a little-used provision of trade law to slap tariffs on trading partners. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion of 1962 lets the president impose sanctions on imports that he deems a threat to national security.

Trump has deployed that provision to tax imported steel and aluminum. And he’s threatening to impose Section 232 tariffs on auto imports, a chilling threat to American allies Japan and the European Union.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to weaken the president’s authority to declare national-security tariffs. In doing so, lawmakers would be reasserting Congress’ authority over trade policy, established by the Constitution but ceded over the years to the White House.

The legislation has stalled in Congress this spring. But on Tuesday, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the bill would be ready “pretty soon.” Given “how the president feels about tariffs,” Grassley said, “he may not look favorably on this. So I want a very strong vote in my committee and then, in turn, a very strong vote on the floor of the Senate.”

Congressional reluctance to challenge Trump could be tested in coming months. Lawmakers may balk if he proceeds with plans to tax $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that he hasn’t already targeted with tariffs — a move that would jack up what consumers pay for everything from bicycles to burglar.

Likewise, taxing auto imports — an idea that has virtually no support outside the White House — would likely meet furious resistance. So would any move to abandon a trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement if Congress won’t ratify a revamped version he negotiated last year.

For all their disenchantment with Trump, the Chamber of Commerce may yet find it hard to break its ties to the party. Though the chamber says it’s weighing a more bipartisan approach, it recently featured a sign on its front steps: It likened Trump to Republican icons Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. (VOA)