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U.S. Senate Stays Divided Over Trump’s Immigration Deal

As tensions over the border wall and the government shutdown continued unabated last week, Pelosi demanded Trump postpone his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address

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Internal Revenue Service employees Brian Lanouette, of Merrimack, N.H., center right, and Mary Maldonado, of Dracut, Mass., right, join with others as they display placards during a rally by federal employees and supporters, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

The partial U.S. government shutdown reached day 31 Monday with the Senate’s Republican leader preparing a vote on a proposal that President Donald Trump is calling a compromise and Democratic leaders say is a non-starter.

Trump’s plan would provide three years of protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the country illegally when they were children, as well extensions of protected status for people who fled their countries due to violence or natural disasters.In return he would get the $5.7 billion in funding he wants for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats object to the border wall as an ineffective and expensive security solution.They want Trump and Republicans to agree to reopen the government first and then discuss other border security initiatives.

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A National Park entrance fee collection service is temporarily suspended at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North America, during the partial U.S. government shutdown, in Death Valley, California, U.S., Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Senate to vote on Trump proposal 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to bring Trump’s proposal to a vote in his chamber in the coming days, although he will need some Democratic support to win approval.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is planning votes this week on adding more immigration judges and money for scanning vehicles and drugs at the country’s ports of entry. The House has already passed multiple measures that would reopen the government, but McConnell has refused to bring them up in the Senate, saying he will not consider any bill that Trump would not support.

Day 31

While the shutdown continues, about 800,000 government workers are either continuing their jobs without pay, or have been furloughed.

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 – which they are not going to win. Best economy!” Trump said on Twitter, referring to next year’s presidential election. “They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work.”

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

He later called the government employees working without pay “great patriots.”

elosi used her own post Sunday to reiterate to Trump the Democrats’ position.

“800,000 Americans are going without pay. Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border. #EndTheShutdown,” Pelosi said.

Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement there is “simply no reason” for the shutdown to continue while the two sides “are engaged in a complex policy discussion.”

“Protecting Dreamers and TPS recipients is the right thing to do. The President is wrong to hold them hostage over money for a wasteful wall that could be better spent on more effective border security measures. The President’s trade offer — temporary protections for some immigrants in exchange for a border wall boondoggle — is not acceptable,” Lowey said.

Conservatives weigh in 

Conservative critics of Trump’s plan said the protections against deportation amounted to amnesty for lawbreakers.

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During a training drill, a Customs and Border Protection official stops the flow of northbound traffic at entrance to the San Ysidro port of entry, Jan. 10, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

But Trump tweeted, “No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer … Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but major legislation in the chamber almost always requires a 60-vote majority. It is unclear if Trump will be able to convince at least seven Democrats to vote for his proposal.

Even if the Senate approves Trump’s plan, it would face defeat in the House. A Senate victory for Trump, however, could force new negotiations over his border wall plan and over reopening the government, as furloughed federal workers are set to miss their second paycheck next Friday.

State of the Union 

As tensions over the border wall and the government shutdown continued unabated last week, Pelosi demanded Trump postpone his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress until after the government is reopened, submit it in writing to Congress or make the speech at the White House.Trump, in turn, postponed her fact-finding trip with other congressional leaders to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Also Read: Donald Trump Offers ‘Compromise’ to End Government Shutdown in US

Trump had not directly responded to her call to delay the State of the Union speech until after the shutdown ends.

But on Sunday, he said, “Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options – including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance. While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!” (VOA)

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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)