Monday January 21, 2019
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U.S. Government Shutdown Continues, Weekend Talks Planned

About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. As of Friday, the partial shutdown had been in effect for 14 days.

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Caravans from Central America have inflamed the debate over U.S. immigration policy, with U.S. President Donald Trump using the migrants to try to secure backing for his plan to build a border wall on the frontier with Mexico., VOA

A partial U.S. government shutdown showed no sign of ending soon Friday as White House and congressional aides prepared to work through the weekend to try to resolve a stalemate over funding for U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Trump said he’d had a “very productive” meeting with congressional leaders to try to end the shutdown, which was triggered by disagreement over $5.6 billion in funding to build the wall.

But Democratic congressional leaders characterized the White House meeting differently.

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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

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who assumed leadership of the newly sworn in House Democratic majority Thursday, called the almost two-hour meeting “contentious.” She continued her oft-repeated assertion that agreement on the wall’s funding “cannot be resolved until we open up the government.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the president threatened to keep the government closed for “a very long period of time, months or even years.”

Despite comments from the Democratic lawmakers that little progress was made, Trump said that “we’re on the same path” to reopen the government. He touted the benefits of “a solid steel or concrete structure” along the border.

The White House said talks on the funding impasse with House and Senate staff members were set for 11 a.m. EST Saturday.

Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and adviser Jared Kushner have been chosen to work with the congressional delegation.

‘We’re not doing a wall’

The House passed a bill Thursday to reopen shuttered federal government agencies. The measure did not, however, include the $5.6 billion the president has demanded for the wall.

“We’re not doing a wall,” Pelosi vowed Thursday. She suggested that the money could better be used for improving border security technology and hiring more border agents.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the House plan to end the shutdown “political theater.”

The Senate passed an identical bill last month, while Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress.

The legislation passed Thursday in the House called for the reopening of the federal government and the funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until early February.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is surrounded by reporters as he returns from meeting with President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders at the White House, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 2, 2019. VOA

While Trump himself has not used the word “veto,” other White House officials have. One official said the president told Democratic leaders he would “look foolish” if he ended the shutdown.

Trump is blaming Democrats for the current situation after insisting on Dec. 11 he would be “proud” to shut down the government if his demand for wall funding was not met.

On Friday, in response to a reporter’s question, Trump defended that comment. “I’m very proud of what I’m doing,” he said. “I don’t call it a shutdown.”

But he confirmed that he’d told Democrats a shutdown could go on for months or a year or longer.

“I don’t think it will, but I am prepared and I think I can speak for Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate. They feel very strongly about having a safe country, having a border that makes sense,” he said.

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Federal contractor Chris Erickson paints his bathroom, Jan., 4, 2019, in North Salt Lake, Utah. Erickson says he’ll run out of vacation days if the shutdown continues. The father of three from Salt Lake City will then crack into his savings, and he’ll likely postpone a 14th wedding anniversary trip with his wife to a cabin. Erickson said he likely won’t get the chance for reimbursement for the lost days because he’s a contractor. VOA

DHS seeks help

Also Friday, the Pentagon said it had received a request from DHS for additional help securing the U.S. southern border.

A defense official told VOA that the Pentagon was reviewing the request for “additional capabilities at the border.” The official would not elaborate on what specific capabilities DHS requested.

DHS is among the government agencies left unfunded because of the shutdown, but Congress has funded the Defense Department through Sept. 30, 2019.

Also Read: US House Votes to Reopen Government, Rejects Wall Money by Donald TrumpA

About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. As of Friday, the partial shutdown had been in effect for 14 days. This is the fourth-longest government shutdown, partial or full, in the last 40 years.

A Reuters/IPSOS poll conducted mostly after the shutdown began found that 47 percent of adults held Trump responsible for the stoppage, while 33 percent blamed congressional Democrats and 7 percent blamed congressional Republicans. (VOA)

 

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Signs Of The U.S. Government Shutdown Ending May Soon Be Emerging

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats.

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President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon. VOA

The first tangible signs of movement may be emerging in the impasse that has shut down the government for weeks: President Donald Trump is promising a “major announcement” about the closure and the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats are pledging more money for border security.

It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might represent serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead may simply be political posturing as the partial shutdown reached a record 29th day. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.

The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce midafternoon Saturday. Trump was not expected to sign a national emergency declaration he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, he was expected to propose the outlines of a deal that the administration believes could have the potential to pave the way for a shutdown end, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to publicly discuss details about the impending announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

 

Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

Whatever the White House proposed would be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, opposed to immigration raids targeting Central American families with children. VOA

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would introduce that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who leads the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has played out against the stalled negotiations.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats. It is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops. (VOA)