Dems prepare own border security package shunning Trump wall
By ALAN FRAM, ANDREW TAYLOR and CATHERINE LUCEY
Thursday, January 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats, feeling pressure to display their vision for border security, are preparing a package that would ignore President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a wall with Mexico and would instead pay for other ideas aimed at protecting the border.
As the government slogged through a record 33rd day of its partial shutdown Wednesday, details of Democrats’ border security plan and its cost remained a work in progress, though some said it might match Trump’s $5.7 billion figure. Party leaders said it would include money for scanning devices and other technological tools for improving security at ports of entry and along the boundary, plus funds for more border agents and immigration judges.
“If his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” said No. 3 House Democratic leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
Democrats’ movement toward producing a plan, which they said they expected to unveil this week, was significant because it underscored a growing uneasiness with letting Trump cast them as soft on border security. It came as the Senate prepared for Thursday votes on rival plans for reopening federal agencies and paying 800,000 federal workers who are days from missing yet another paycheck.
Republicans would couple ending the shutdown with financing Trump’s wall and revamping immigration laws. Democrats would reopen agency doors through Feb. 8 while bargainers seek an accord.
Both faced likely defeat, but that might spur the two sides into a more serious effort to strike a compromise when each saw it lacked the votes to prevail. Both proposals would need 60 votes to pass in a chamber with 53-47 Republican control.
Ominously, the day’s signs pointed to continued partisan hostilities.
Trump told White House reporters that Democrats had become “radicalized” and “a very, very dangerous party,” and took personal aim at Congress’ top two Democrats. He said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is “very strongly dominated” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling him her “puppet.”
Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Senate Republicans to abandon Trump despite his sway with conservative voters, saying, “I know that President Trump has some power in these Republican primaries, but sometimes you have to rise to the occasion.”
A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday was the latest indicator that the shutdown is hurting Trump with the general public. While his approval among Republicans remains strong, just 34 percent of Americans like his performance as president and 6 in 10 assign a great deal of responsibility to him for the shutdown, around double the share blaming Democrats.
The Senate GOP bill would temporarily shield from deportation 700,000 “Dreamers,” migrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, protections Trump has tried terminating. He’s also offered temporary protections for people who fled violence or natural disasters in several countries — another program Trump has curtailed.
Democrats have objected to other provisions making it harder for Central American minors to gain asylum in the U.S.
The testy relationship between Trump and Pelosi, D-Calif., decayed further when she informed him he couldn’t use the House chamber for his planned State of the Union address next Tuesday. She invited him to speak “when government has been opened.”
Trump said he’d plan an event elsewhere and called Pelosi’s move “a great blotch on the country” that showed she didn’t want “the truth” about border security. But late Wednesday night he tweeted that he would postpone the address until after the shutdown had ended, saying no other venue could match the House chamber.
The clash over the speech suggested that a collaborative atmosphere that could facilitate a shutdown deal wasn’t at hand.
Democratic leaders have insisted they won’t negotiate with Trump on border security unless he reopens the government. Trump has said he’ll end the shutdown only if Congress provides money for the wall, though White House officials have indicated he’s open to counteroffers.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has urged the White House to provide green cards to 700,000 Dreamers as a way to break the impasse. Lankford has mentioned this to White House adviser Jared Kushner, said a person familiar with the conversations who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
With Democrats eager to show they’re trying to end the impasse, the House used mostly party-line votes Wednesday to approve one measure reopening government agencies through February. By a similar tally, the chamber voted to finance most shuttered agencies through September.
Growing numbers of House Democrats say the party should show where it stands on border security.
“Right now it’s a vacuum and the president is offering fake plans to stop drug smuggling,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. Offering a Democratic alternative “helps the possibility of beginning a real negotiation,” he said.
Their proposal is expected to exceed the $1.6 billion Trump initially sought for the wall before upping his request.
AP congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro and writers Laurie Kellman and Matthew Daly contributed.
Senate rejects rival plans for ending shutdown; talks start
By ANDREW TAYLOR and ALAN FRAM
Friday, January 25
WASHINGTON (AP) — A splintered Senate swatted down competing Democratic and Republican plans for ending the 34-day partial government shutdown on Thursday, but the twin setbacks prompted a burst of bipartisan talks aimed at temporarily halting the longest-ever closure of federal agencies and the damage it’s inflicting around the country.
In the first serious exchange in weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quickly called Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to his office to explore potential next steps for solving the vitriolic stalemate. Senators from both sides floated a plan to reopen agencies for three weeks and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.
At the White House, President Donald Trump told reporters he’d support “a reasonable agreement.” He suggested he’d also want a “prorated down payment” for his long-sought border wall with Mexico but didn’t describe the term. He said he has “other alternatives” for getting wall funding, an apparent reference to his disputed claim that he could declare a national emergency and fund the wall’s construction using other programs in the federal budget.
“At least we’re talking about it. That’s better than it was before,” McConnell told reporters in one of the most encouraging statements heard since the shutdown began Dec. 22.
Even so, it was unclear whether the flurry would produce results.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whose relationship with Trump seems to sour daily, told reporters a “big” down payment would not be “a reasonable agreement.” Asked if she knew how much money Trump meant, Pelosi said, “I don’t know if he knows what he’s talking about.”
Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said Democrats have made clear “that they will not support funding for the wall, prorated or otherwise.”
Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh reality confronting 800,000 federal workers, who on Friday face a second two-week payday with no paychecks.
Underscoring the strains, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., angrily said on the Senate floor that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had forced a 2013 shutdown during which “people were killed” in Colorado from flooding and shuttered federal agencies couldn’t help local emergency workers. Moments earlier, Cruz accused Democrats of blocking a separate, doomed bill to pay Coast Guard personnel during this shutdown to score political points, adding later, “Just because you hate somebody doesn’t mean you should shut the government down.”
Thursday’s votes came after Vice President Mike Pence lunched privately with GOP senators, who told him they were itching for the standoff to end, participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was, “Find a way forward.”
In an embarrassment to Trump, the Democratic proposal got two more votes Thursday than the GOP plan, even though Republicans control the chamber 53-47. Six Republicans backed the Democratic plan, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who’s clashed periodically with the president.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening the government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he’s demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he’d long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to government workers who are either working wihout pay or being forced to stay home.
Flustered lawmakers said Thursday’s roll calls could be a reality check that would prod the start of talks. Throughout, the two sides have issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected bargaining until he reopens government.
Thursday’s votes could “teach us that the leaders are going to have to get together and figure out how to resolve this,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader. He added, “One way or another we’ve got to get out of this. This is no win for anybody.”
Initially, partisan potshots flowed freely.
Pelosi accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of a “‘Let them eat cake’ kind of attitude” after he said on television that he didn’t understand why unpaid civil servants were resorting to homeless shelters for food. Even as Pelosi offered to meet the president “anytime,” Trump stood firm, tweeting, “Without a Wall it all doesn’t work…. We will not Cave!”
As the Senate debated the two dueling proposals, McConnell said the Democratic plan would let that party’s lawmakers “make political points and nothing else” because Trump wouldn’t sign it. He called Pelosi’s opposition “unreasonable” and said, “Senate Democrats are not obligated to go down with her ship.”
Schumer criticized the GOP plan for endorsing Trump’s proposal to keep the government closed until he gets what he wants.
“A vote for the president’s plan is an endorsement of government by extortion,” Schumer said. “If we let him do it today, he’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.”
McConnell’s engagement was viewed as a constructive sign because he has a history of helping resolve partisan standoffs. For weeks, he’d let Trump and Democrats try reaching an accord and, until Thursday, had barred any votes on legislation Trump would not sign.
In consultation with their Senate counterparts, House Democrats were preparing a new border security package that might be rolled out Friday. Despite their pledge to not negotiate until agencies reopened, their forthcoming proposal was essentially a counteroffer to Trump. Pelosi expressed “some optimism that things could break loose pretty soon” in a closed-door meeting with other Democrats on Wednesday evening, said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.
The Democratic package was expected to include $5.7 billion, the same amount Trump wants for his wall, but it would be used instead for fencing, technology, personnel and other measures. In a plan the rejected Senate GOP plan mirrored, Trump on Saturday proposed to reopen government if he got his wall money. He also proposed to revamp immigration laws, including new restrictions on Central American minors seeking asylum in the U.S. and temporary protections for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
At a panel discussion held by House Democrats on the effects of the shutdown, union leaders and former Homeland Security officials said they worried about the long-term effects.
“We will be lucky to get everybody back on the job without a crisis to respond to,” said Tim Manning, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and AP writers Catherine Lucey, Laurie Kellman, Kevin Freking and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
Ending showdown with Pelosi, Trump postpones State of Union
By KEVIN FREKING, MATTHEW DALY and CATHERINE LUCEY
Thursday, January 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he is postponing his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown ends, yielding after a weeklong showdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Following a high-stakes game of dare and double-dare, Trump conceded Wednesday night that “no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber.” He said he was not looking for an alternate option after Pelosi served notice earlier in the day that he wouldn’t be allowed to deliver the address to a joint session of Congress next week.
Pelosi had taken the step after Trump said he planned to show up in spite of Democratic objections to the speech taking place with large swaths of the government shut down.
Denied that grand venue, Trump promised to come up with some sort of alternative event. The White House scrambled to find a site matching the gravitas of the traditional address from the rostrum of the House to lawmakers from both parties, Supreme Court justices, invited guests and a television audience of millions.
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed,” Trump tweeted shortly after 11 p.m. EST. “She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
Fireworks over the speech shot back and forth between the Capitol and the White House as the monthlong partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending and about 800,000 federal workers faced the prospect of going without their second paycheck in a row come Friday.
Pelosi told Trump the House wouldn’t approve a resolution allowing him to address Congress until the shutdown ended. Trump shot back that Pelosi was afraid of hearing the truth.
“I think that’s a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love,” Trump said earlier Wednesday. “It’s a great, great horrible mark.”
The drama surrounding the State of the Union address began last week when Pelosi asked Trump to make other plans but stopped short of denying him the chamber for his address. Trump called her bluff Wednesday in a letter, saying he intended to come anyway.
“It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location,” he wrote.
Pelosi quickly squelched the speech, writing back that the House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”
The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers’ explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.
The gamesmanship unfolded as the Senate prepared to vote this week on dueling proposals on the shutdown. A Republican one would give Trump money for the wall while one from Democrats would re-open government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, giving bargainers time to talk about it.
Both proposals were likely to fail to reach the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority. As well, House Democrats were putting forward a new proposal, aiming to lure Trump away from his demand for a border wall by offering billions of new dollars for other border security measures.
The Constitution states only that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing. The address has been delayed before.
Ronald Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address was postponed after the Challenger space shuttle exploded in flight on Jan. 28 of that year.
But there is no precedent for a State of the Union invitation being rescinded.
Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter issued their final messages in print. As Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack in 1956, he prepared a seven-minute, filmed summary of the message from his retreat in Key West, Florida, that was broadcast nationwide. Richard Nixon sent a printed message in 1973; his staff said an oral message would have come too soon after his second inaugural address.
White House officials had been working on a backup plan to have Trump give the speech somewhere else if Democrats blocked access to the House chamber. Nevertheless, they were rattled by Pelosi’s move Wednesday and expressed concern it would further sour shutdown negotiations.
Pelosi said that when she extended her Jan. 3 invitation to Trump to deliver the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.
She wrote Wednesday: “I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
Moments after her letter became public, Trump told reporters he wasn’t surprised by Pelosi’s action. Democrats have become “radicalized,” he claimed. He expanded on those sentiments during a subsequent event at the White House, calling the cancellation a “disgrace” and asserting that Pelosi didn’t want to hear the truth about the need for better border security.
The White House and Democratic lawmakers have been accusing one another of pettiness since Pelosi raised doubts about the speech. Trump followed up by revoking her use of a military plane for a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
Llewellyn King: Call Me Madam — Women Who Would Be President (700 words)
By Llewellyn King
Good morning class, draw near and listen ever so closely.
So, you all want to be president of the United States, arguably the most difficult and demanding job in the world?
Clearly, you feel that you have unique talents which will promote peace and prosperity and block injustice, racism and men hitting on women.
You are sure that you will be able to curb, gently, the imperial instincts of China and its canny leader, Xi Jinping.
And you have a sure-fire plan to contain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East and to persuade our shaken allies that it is worth standing firm with us.
You might want to know what to do about Africa’s soaring population and declining prospects.
You, also, I trust have given thought to the future as the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds with huge consequences for the future of work (artificial intelligence taking away jobs); the future of transportation (autonomous vehicles, ships and airplanes); and remote farming (farms operated from city desks).
If you are all set on those things, we can get down to the ones that may decide the election: the social issues, including abortion, education, gender equity and gender equality; gun control; access to health care; immigration; and income inequality.
You might want to tell people how you will turn back the tides and solve global warming. Rich people are starting to worry about their oceanfront homes; that means it will become a fashionable topic with those who have been indifferent screaming for action
Now, ladies, step forward for little individual tutelage.
Elizabeth Warren: You have the pole position as the racers line up, but already there are troubling things. Ms. Warren, you must stop taking President Trump’s bait. How the devil did you get into getting your DNA analyzed? Bad move. Lead the debate, do not join it.
Kamala Harris: A few good notices and you are off and running. Just wait until the opposition research pulls apart the cases you prosecuted when you were a district attorney in San Francisco — and the things you said in court. Two former prosecutors, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, have tarnished the brand.
Kirsten Gillibrand: The announcement on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was, well, weak. It looked like you were there because you had just published a children’s book called something like “Snuggles the Rabbit.” Bold statesmanship was not to be heard. It is hard to look presidential on a comedy program. Looking presidential is worth a lot in the polls, especially at the beginning. Now to those giant flip-flops on guns and abortion. Were you not a darling of the NRA? What about your switching from pro-life to pro-getting-elected? Explain your double epiphany.
Tulsi Gabbard: Step forward and salute. Major, you are the only declared candidate with military service: the only candidate in sight who has worn your country’s uniform and seen active duty. Bravo! That is going to be a huge credential, but not quite enough to outweigh the fact that you are too exotic: born in American Samoa, raised in Hawaii and a Hindu. At 38, you have got time, lots and lots of it. Beware hopefuls. This lady may not be for turning.
To the whole class of four: Have you ever run a large organization? Have you a big scandal you think you can keep hidden (you cannot)? Do you know enough people to staff the Cabinet? Do you know how you will find 1,200 people to fill the positions that must be confirmed by the Senate? How is your golf game?
Three of you are senators, Gillibrand, Harris and Warren, and Gabbard is a member of the House. Hard to run against Washington when you already have contracted Potomac Fever.
Suggestion: Get a big idea and run with that. Keep out of the granular social stuff, it will bring you down. Prepare to be vice president and bide your time.
House, Senate, White House, America’s women are on the move, and may the best woman win.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.He wrote this for InsideSources.com.