Thursday September 19, 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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Trump Administration to Revoke California’s Authority to Set Auto Mileage Standards

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California's authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting

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FILE - Automobile traffic flows over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. California's long struggles with smog mean the state has been setting its own mileage standards since before the 1970 Clean Air Act was written. VOA

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019. VOA

Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.

The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. EPA’s press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that the Trump administration would move “in the very near future” to take steps toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.

Also Read- Lack of Sleep Alters Fat Metabolism, Says Study

Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”

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FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, July 23, 2019. VOA

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.”

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” said Newsom, a Democrat.

The deal struck in July between California and four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — bypassed the Trump administration’s plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted under Obama at 2021 levels.

The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.

Also Read- Festival Sales by Amazon, Flipkart Violating FDI Norms

The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

Wheeler said Tuesday: “California will be able to keep in place and enforce programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles.” But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state has used to reduce harmful emissions.

Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration’s expected announcement, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.

“Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Strong clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year in gas expenses.” (VOA)