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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

“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

Also Read: Practice What You Preach: Celebrities Should Stand By Their Public Image In Private Domain

It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)