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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

William Barr, U.S. Attorney General Nominee Grilled On Russia Probe

The nominee criticized so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody.

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Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr, goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee again Wednesday, after pledging in his first day of confirmation hearings to shield the special counsel’s Russia probe from political pressure.

In his initial appearance before the panel, Barr also took issue with Trump’s labeling the investigation of his inner circle’s contacts with Moscow as a “witch hunt.”

“I don’t believe (special counsel Robert) Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Barr said, adding that he intends to let the probe run its course and that the results should be made known to the public and Congress.

Barr said the special counsel could only be terminated for good cause and that “it’s unimaginable” that Mueller would “ever do anything that gave rise to good cause.”

Democrats repeatedly stressed the importance of independence to the role of attorney general and noted Trump’s penchant for lashing out at the Justice Department.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accompanied by Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,(R) questions Attorney General nominee William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

“I believe it is important that the next attorney general be able to strongly resist pressure, whether from the administration or Congress,” California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said. “He must have the integrity, the strength and the fortitude to tell the president ‘no’ regardless of the consequences.”

“If confirmed, the president is going to expect you to his bidding. I can almost guarantee he’ll cross the line at some point,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

“I can truly be independent,” Barr insisted. “I’m in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences … I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong.”

Barr’s memo

Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush, has drawn scrutiny for a memo he wrote last year criticizing special counsel Mueller for examining whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation by firing then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Nov. 1, 2018. VOA

In a memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, Barr opined that probing Trump’s actions toward Comey was “fatally misconceived” and “grossly irresponsible.”

The memo, written last June, came to light after Trump nominated Barr, 68, to succeed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump ousted over his recusal from oversight of the Russia investigation. The document sparked widespread concern among minority Democrats in the Senate, who have long feared Trump intends to shut down the probe.

At the confirmation hearing, Barr argued his memo was “narrow in scope” and did not address the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other “potential obstruction-of-justice theories.”

Later in the hearing, Barr said, “I think Russians attempted to interfere with the [2016] election, and I think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

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Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

Republicans also sought assurances from the nominee. The committee’s new chairman, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, expressed outrage over extensive communications between two FBI agents during the 2016 presidential campaign that showed extreme bias and prejudice against Trump.

“We’re relying on you to clean this place up,” Graham said of the Justice Department.

Graham also asked if, as commander in chief, Trump has the authority to divert federal funding in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Without looking at the statute, I really couldn’t answer that,” Barr replied.

Also Read: “I Never Worked For Russia”, Says US President Donald Trump

The nominee criticized so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody. He also weighed in on the current standoff between the White House and congressional Democrats over border wall funding.

“I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes that it’s imperative to have border security, and that part of that border security, as a commonsense matter, needs barriers,” Barr said. (VOA)