President Announces Deal to End Government Shutdown

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is coming to an end. A deal has been reached that will allow federal workers to return to work. The announcement was made this morning by President Trump.

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” the President said from the Rose Garden of the White House. The President thanked workers affected by shutdown, calling them “incredible patriots.”

“I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers and their amazing families who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship,” the President said. “Many of you have suffered far greater than anyone but your families would know or understand….You are very, very special people. I am so proud that you are citizens of our country. When I say Make America Great Again it could never be done without you.”

The President also said that he would see to it that federal workers receive the backpay due to them “as soon as possible.”

The deal announced today would reopen government and keep it funded until February 15, 3 weeks from today. During that time, a bipartisan, bicameral committee will convene in Congress to try and come to an agreement on a broader border security package.

The President is still sticking to his demand of a structure along the southern border, which he says is recommended by law enforcement professionals whose job it is to secure the nation’s borders.

“[Democrat and Republican members of Congress] have finally and fully acknowledged that having barriers fencing or walls or whatever you want to call it will be an important part of the solution. A bipartisan conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers and leaders will immediately begin reviewing the requests of our homeland security experts…and also law enforcement professionals who have worked with us so closely,” the President said.

“Our country has built six hundred and fifty four miles of barrier over the last 15 years and every career Border Patrol agent I have spoken with has told me that walls work,” he added.

The President’s decision was welcome news on Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders claimed victory over their shutdown strategy, but also pledged to work toward a larger solution that will prevent another shutdown next month.

“We’re pleased that we reached an agreement to reopen government now…It is very clear that we all understand the importance of securing our borders and we have some very good ideas on how to do that,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“House Democrats look forward to working in a bipartisan, bicameral way to pass all of the bills to open government as we proceed into the conference discussion,” she added.

“Now, once the President signs the continuing resolution, we in Congress will roll up our sleeves and try to find some agreement on border security. If we don’t agree on some of the specifics of border security – Democrats are firmly against the wall. But we agree on many things…and that bodes well for finding an eventual agreement,” said Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The deal brings to an end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which lasted 35 days in all. The federal government shut down on December 22 at midnight when the President refused to sign spending bills passed by Congress that did not include funding for the border wall. Democrats agreed only to vote for spending bills that did not include any funding for a border wall.

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President Trump Offers Protections for DREAMERs, Other Immigrants in Exchange for Border Wall

President Donald Trump put forth a new proposal in an effort to end a government shutdown that entered its fifth week yesterday.

At the heart of the stalemate is the President’s demand for funding for a wall along the southern border, which he says will impede migrants’ crossing into the U.S. illegally. Democrats have blocked any spending bills that include any funding for a wall, which they call expensive, ineffective and immoral.

The President says such a structure would go a long way toward decreasing a humanitarian crisis on the southern border and that has seen drug cartels and human traffickers operate with impunity.

“There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action. Thousands of children are being exploited by ruthless coyotes and vicious cartels and gangs. One in three women is sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey north,” the President said from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in an address broadcast to the nation yesterday afternoon.

“Vast quantities of lethal narcotics are flooding through our border and into our communities…The lack of border control provides a gateway…for criminals and gang members to enter the United States…” he added.

The President’s plan calls for $800 million in humanitarian assistance for illegal immigrants and those seeking asylum, $805 million for illegal drug detection technology to be deployed at ports of entry and an additional 2,750 border agents.

The plan also calls for seventy-five new immigration judge teams aimed at reducing the country’s 900,000-immigration-case backlog. And it calls for $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall which, the President says, will be installed strategically in areas deemed necessary by officials.

“This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high-priority locations,” the President said. “We already have many miles of barrier, including 115 miles that we are currently building or under contract…Our request will add another 230 miles this year in the areas our border agents most urgently need.”

As an incentive for Democrats, the President offered two proposals Democrats have long sought. The first is protection from deportation for 700,000 DACA recipients, individuals who were brought to the country illegally by their parents, but when they were very young and through no fault of their own.

The second is a three-year extension of the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program. TPS is granted to citizens from countries that have been affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other devastation. Countries are granted the designation and the Secretary of Homeland Security can renew it for six, 12 or 18 months.

Critics of the program argue that TPS was always meant to be temporary but the program has turned into a permanent benefit program for hundreds of thousands of people.

The Trump administration ended the program when it declined over recent years to renew TPS status for citizens from countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. Some of those citizens had been in the U.S. since 1999.

Mr. Trump said the three year extensions of TPS, as well as the DACA program, will give Congress time to come up with a broader, more comprehensive immigration package. “…Congress can [now] work on a larger immigration deal, which everybody wants — Republicans and Democrats,” the President said.

Democrats dismissed the proposals as an unserious offer.

“Democrats were hopeful that the President was finally willing to re-open government and proceed with a much-needed discussion to protect the border. Unfortunately…his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“What is original in the President’s proposal is not good. What is good in the proposal is not original,” Pelosi added in a subsequent tweet.

“It’s clear the President realizes that by closing the government and hurting so many American workers and their families, he has put himself and the country in an untenable position. Unfortunately, he keeps putting forward one-sided and ineffective remedies,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“It was the President who singled-handedly [sic] took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place – offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring Mr. Trump’s proposal to a vote in the Senate this week. It was unclear whether there are enough votes for the proposal to pass there. The proposal would almost certainly fail in the House of Representatives where Democrats now hold the majority.

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President Trump Addresses the Nation, Calls Situation at the Border Humanitarian Crisis

President Trump, in a live address to the nation, portrayed the impasse that has shut down the government as a humanitarian crisis.

“In the last two years, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings,” the President said from the Oval Office last night.

“Over the years thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now. This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul…This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end,” he went on to say.

The government has been shut down for 19 days. It is already the second longest shutdown in the US’ history. The longest shut down took place in 1995-1996 when the government shutdown for 21 days. This shutdown will become the longest if it lasts past Saturday.

President Trump renewed calls for a border wall during his address, saying it is necessary to build one to gain operational control of the southern border. “This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense,” Mr. Trump said.

He laid blame for the shutdown squarely at the feet of Congressional Democrats. “Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation. The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only because Democrats will not fund border security,” he said.

Democrats, who as of January 3 now control the House of Representatives, have refused to pass spending bills that fund the government that include funding for the wall. They view the wall as expensive, ineffective and amoral.

Democrats have proposed reopening the government by funding most of the government through the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. They propose funding the Department of Homeland Security with a short term spending bill – one that lasts about 30 days – to give the White House and Congress time to negotiate additional border security measures.

But the President, who sees his hand as weak now that Democrats control the lower house of Congress, sees the shutdown as the only leverage he has to get the funding for a critical part of his border security package.

In addition to funding for a physical barrier, the President is also asking for funding for technology to help detect illegal drugs and weapons crossing the southern border, and increase in the number of ICE agents, immigration judges and the number of beds used to accommodate migrants seeking asylum. The President’s plan, totaling roughly $5.7 billion, also includes increased humanitarian assistance and medical support for those making the treacherous journey from Central American countries to the US.

Roughly 800,000 federal workers are directly affected by the shutdown. About 380,000 employees have been furloughed and more than 420,000 are currently working without pay. The pay period ending on Friday, January 11 is the first pay period to be affected by the shutdown. The earliest workers will get paid is 2 weeks from then – January 25.

The shutdown is partial, so aspects of the government continue to function through the shutdown, such as the military, the US Postal Service and the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs. Agencies and services that have seen disruptions include National Parks, the IRS and environmental and food inspections.

A meeting this afternoon at the White House between President Trump and congressional representatives ended abruptly when Democratic leaders told Mr. Trump they would not fund the wall even if he acquiesced to their demands and reopened government.

“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!” the President said of the meeting, referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

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Little Progress in Negotiations as Shutdown Enters Third Week

A meeting yesterday between White House senior officials and congressional staff “did not make much progress,” according to the White House, as the impasse that has caused parts of the federal government to shut down enters its third week.

“We didn’t make much progress at the meeting, which was surprising to me,” said White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who was in the meeting. “I thought we had come in to talk about terms that we could agree on, places where we all agreed we should be spending more time, more attention, things we could do to improve our border security. And yet the opening line from one of the lead Democrat negotiators was that they were not there to talk about any agreement.”

Mulvaney, along with senior White House adviser and the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner were part of the delegation headed by Vice President Mike Pence charged with hashing out an agreement to reopen the government. Pence and the others met with staffers from the offices of both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.

President Trump indicated that a second meeting of the working group would be set for today. “V.P. Mike Pence and team just left the White House. Briefed me on their meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives. Not much headway made today. Second meeting set for tomorrow. After so many decades, must finally and permanently fix the problems on the Southern Border!” he wrote on Twitter.

At the heart of the impasse is funding for the President’s border wall along the southern border. Mr. Trump wants $5.6 billion to begin construction of the wall, as well as additional border security measures. Democrats have agreed to keep border security funding at last year’s level – $1.3 billion – and have refused to approve any additional funds to be used specifically for the wall.

According to the President today’s meeting was a bit more productive.

“V.P. Mike Pence and group had a productive meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives today. Many details of Border Security were discussed. We are now planning a Steel Barrier rather than concrete. It is both stronger & less obtrusive. Good solution, and made in the U.S.A.” the President wrote on after being briefed on today’s meeting, referring to Democratic congressional leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Instead of concrete, the President has for several weeks proposed erecting a steel slat barrier with pointed tops in lieu of a solid barrier. Law enforcement officials have advised the administration that a barrier through which authorities can see through to the other side would be more effective from a security point of view.

It’s unclear whether the difference in structural details will garner any congressional Democratic votes.

“We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall, so that’s it,” Speaker Pelosi told reporters defiantly hours after being sworn in as Speaker of the House.

The federal shutdown affects about 800,000 government employees. About 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed and more than 420,000 are currently working without pay. The pay period ending Friday January 11 is set to be the first period affected by the shutdown. The government would have to reopen by Tuesday, January 8 in order for employees to be paid on time for that pay period.

It has not yet been determined whether these employees will receive back pay if and when the government reopens if pay periods are missed.

The shutdown is partial, so aspects of the Federal Government continue to function including the military, the U.S. Postal Service and the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs. Agencies and services that have seen interruptions include National Parks, the IRS and environmental and food inspections.

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Government Shutdown Likely to Extend Into 2019

President Donald Trump said he was not sure when the government would be open but said the government would but vowed not to reopen it until Congress approves funding for a wall along America’s southern border with Mexico. The President made the comments when speaking with reporters on Christmas Day after a video teleconference with members of the U.S. military.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country,” the President said.

The Federal Government has been shut down since Saturday as Congress and the White House failed to come to terms on spending bills that would have kept the government operating. At the heart of the impasse is funding for a wall along the southern border, a promise at the center of President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Congress, specifically Congressional Democrats, approved spending that would keep border security funding at last year’s levels – $1.3 billion. They contend however that those funds are for overall border security and have remained adamant that no additional funding will be provided specifically for the President’s border wall. They have since revised their proposed funding levels to downward to $1.3 billion for next year.

Democratic votes are required for any funding bills to be passed by Congress as Republicans lack the required number of votes, sixty, to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. The White House wants at least $5 billion to begin construction on the wall and have requested that amount be included in any new spending bills that pass Congress and arrive at the President’s desk for signature.

On Sunday, the President’s new Chief of Staff, Office of Management and Budget Director and former Congressman Mick Mulvaney, indicated it is very likely the shutdown will extend beyond December 28, and into the new Congress. The Senate is adjourned until Thursday which sets as the end of the week the earliest a compromise can be reached.

But Mulvaney also indicated that the White House has extended a new offer to Congressional Democrats to break the deadlock.

“Yes, I will tell you this, they’re [at] 1.3 [billion dollars]. Yesterday, we are at $5 billion a couple of days ago. And the counteroffer that we give them yesterday was between those two numbers….We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday.

That offer however, was rejected by Congressional Democrats.

Democratic leadership, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi put out a joint statement yesterday assailing President Trump for not having a clear vision as to how to end the stalemate.

“It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos. The stock market is tanking and the president is waging a personal war on the Federal Reserve – after he just fired the Secretary of Defense,” they wrote.

“Instead of bringing certainty into people’s lives, he’s continuing the Trump Shutdown just to please right-wing radio and TV hosts. Meanwhile, different people from the same White House are saying different things about what the president would accept or not accept to end his Trump Shutdown, making it impossible to know where they stand at any given moment. The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it,” they added.

Adding to the confusion is the uncertainty over what is meant by the term “border wall.” The President tweeted out a picture of a steel slated fence with points at the top as an example of the barrier he wants funding for. “A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” the President’s message read.

Mulvaney also alluded to the steel fence and said Democrats were being disingenuous in asserting that no funds will be directed to a “border wall” when funds have already been offered for the construction of the steel slated fencing.

“It’s important that everyone understands the language that everyone is using. The president tweeted out a picture yesterday…the steel slated fence with a pointed top…that’s what we want to build. And in the Democrats’ mind, that is not a wall,” Mulvaney said.

“So they have offered this $1.3 billion to build the barrier that we want but then they go on TV and say there’s no money for a wall. We’ve already told the Democrats we want to build what the president tweeted out. It doesn’t have to be a 30-foot high concrete,” he added.

The President said during an Oval Office meeting with Schumer and Pelosi two weeks ago that he would take full responsibility for any shut down that occurred over construction of the barrier on the border.

“If we don’t get what we want through you or through military or anyone you want to call, I will shut down the government,” the President told Schumer referring to a wall.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it…I will take the mantle for shutting down. I’m going to shut it down for border security,” he went on to say.

Last week the Senate passed a continuing resolution that would have kept the government funded until February 8, 2019. No additional funding beyond last year’s levels were included in the measure for border security. The President had indicated that he would sign such a “clean” spending bill ahead of Friday’s deadline to keep the government open.

The President however was roundly criticized by conservatives, most notably conservative media, for agreeing to Democratic demands.

“It looks like a lot of people’s worst fears may be realized and …

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Kavanaugh Confirmed

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court yesterday after a contentious nomination process that included recriminations of political double standards and accusations of sexual assault.

The vote, largely along party lines, was 50-48 in favor of confirmation. Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana was not present for the vote because he was attending his daughter’s wedding. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the sole Senator who broke with their party. She voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday and for the full vote on Saturday voted “present.”

President Trump hailed the victory on Twitter. “I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!” he wrote.

Kavanaugh was sworn in a few hours later in a ceremony at the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh is replacing, Anthony Kennedy. Supporters of Kavanaugh’s cheered his motorcade as it arrived for the ceremony. Protesters also gathered outside of the Supreme Court and were eventually pushed back from the building’s steps by police.

Kavanaugh is accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California. Ford says Kavanaugh lured her into a bedroom during a gathering at a home in suburban Maryland in the summer of 1982. She says he then threw her on a bed, got on top of her and tried to remove her clothes.

Ford says that when she attempted to scream for help, Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. A Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, falling on top of the two and sending all three tumbling to the floor allowed Ford an opportunity to escape.

Ford, along with Senate Democrats pushed hard for an FBI investigation. Senate Republicans, along with the White House, under strong public pressure acquiesced to the demand. That investigation, limited in nature, concluded the middle of last week.

The findings of the investigation were made available to all 100 Senators but were not made public. Republicans declared that no corroborating witnesses were found to support Ford’s allegations, while Democrats decried the investigation as incomplete, citing the fact that neither Ford nor Kavanaugh were interviewed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday morning that the final vote would be held between 4 P.M. and 5 P.M. in the afternoon.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is among the very best our country has to offer,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “He unquestionably deserves confirmation.”

He also called the fierce opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination a “great political gift.”

“I want to thank the mob, because they’ve done the one thing we were having trouble doing, which was energizing our base,” McConnell told The Washington Post.

Democrats urged their supporters to keep fighting. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in remarks from the Senate floor criticized Kavanaugh as an unfit, partisan nominee, who would work hard to overturn landmark decisions important to progressives, such as Roe v Wade. He implored voters frustrated by Kavanaugh’s nomination process to channel their anger into Election Day action.

“If you believe Dr. Ford, and other brave women who came forward, and you want to vindicate their sacrifice, vote,” he said.

Photo by the Office of Senator Chuck Grassley via Wikimedia Commons

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President Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the forthcoming vacancy on the High Court left by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan and has served for 31 years.

Although nominated by a Republican, Kennedy became a reliably independent voice, providing swing votes on such landmark issues as marriage-equality, affirmative action and the campaign finance case known as Citizens United.

Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump hopes, will follow in the same mold.

Kavanaugh, 53, currently serves as a federal appeals court judge but his ties to official Washington and the Republican establishment go back decades. He is a former aide to President George W. Bush and played a large role in independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton during the 1990s. Kavanaugh, working for Starr, was a strong advocate for, and laid out broad legal grounds to impeach Clinton.

Kavanaugh’s legal credentials are impeccable: He is a graduate of Yale and Yale Law School. He also actually clerked for Justice Kennedy, and currently teaches at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown. He reportedly impressed President Trump during his interview, and was also endorsed enthusiastically by White House Counsel Don McGahn.

“He is a brilliant jurist, with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time,” President Trump said during his prime time announcement ceremony from the White House last night.

“There is no one in America more qualified for this position, and no one more deserving.”

But it is precisely his long track record working with, and against, past administrations that have some on the Republican side of the aisle worried. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told President Trump that two other nominees whom he was considering, Judges Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge, would have an easier path to confirmation should they be nominated.

People familiar with the President’s thinking say McConnell’s warnings may have had the opposite effect on President Trump, pushing him closer to choosing Kavanaugh. McConnell called the pick “superb” after it was announced.

Democrats, unsurprisingly, took the opposing view, warning that with Kavanaugh’s selection, decisions in landmark cases such as Roe v. Wade and Obamacare are jeopardized.

“I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have, and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same. The stakes are simply too high for anything less,” said Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the wake of the announcement.

Still, it is unclear what Democrats can do to stop Kavanaugh’s appointment from going through. Because of a rule change made during the confirmation battle of President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee last year, only a simple majority is needed to get Kavanaugh on the bench.

Republicans currently control 51 seats in the U.S. Senate and because Kavanaugh is perhaps the least conservative choice President Trump could have made, he is likely to enjoy wide support in the Senate.

With a second appointment to the Supreme Court, President Trump will have successfully tilted the Court’s slant rightward for perhaps a generation. Consequences of that shift have already been felt with the Court’s recent decisions on cases such as the travel ban and gerrymandering.

President Trump’s first appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, provided enough support to shift the decisions in those cases in the conservative direction.

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Schumer Introduces Legislation to Legalize Marijuana

Legislation was introduced this week in the Senate that would decriminalize the use of marijuana at the federal level and create dedicated funding streams for women and minority business owners to produce and sell the drug. The legislation was introduced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who said that his world view on Marijuana has “evolved.”

“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “My thinking, as well as the general population’s views on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. It’s simply the right thing to do.”

While the legislation would decriminalize the level one drug, it would not affect laws that prevent the trafficking of the drug to states that have not legalized it. The legislation will also allow for a dedicated study of the effects that the drug has on highway safety, fund research for medical marijuana treatments and how effective the drug would be in curing illnesses

The move comes after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation last week that would legalize hemp, a form of marijuana which doesn’t contain THC, and is produced for industrial use. McConnell wants to vote on the measure in the next couple weeks. If passed, the new law would have wide ramifications for his state of Kentucky, which is the leading producer of hemp in the U.S.

Washington D.C.’s delegate, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she plans to introduce legislation that would make medical Marijuana legal in public housing, which includes federally funded homes, like section eight housing. She also plans to speak at The National Cannabis Festival in Washington.

“Individuals living in federally funded public housing who are prescribed legal, medical marijuana should not fear eviction for simply treating their medical conditions,” Norton said. “Our legislation should attract bipartisan support because it also protects states’ rights.”

Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller via Army.mil

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Gun Legislation Stalls in Congress with Democrats Hoping for More Consequential Bills

Despite outcries from parents, students and lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not bring gun-control legislation to the floor of the Senate this week.  McConnell filed a motion to hold a procedural vote on banking reform, and after that he hopes to bring to the floor anti-sex-trafficking legislation.

It is unclear when, or if, gun-control legislation, or any legislation addressing mass or school shootings will come up for debate.

Republicans last week blamed Democrats for preventing a bill sponsored by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) from coming to the floor.  The so-called FixNICS Act would incentivize states and federal agencies to keep the National Instant Criminal Background Check System updated with the latest information about individuals who should be prevented from purchasing firearms.

“We tried to get it cleared yesterday,” McConnell said of the bill, “but the Democratic leader objected.”

Democrats deny holding up the bill.  They say that it was Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) who voted against an expedited process that would have brought the bill to the floor.  Lee acted to block expedited consideration of the bill on the grounds that it doesn’t provide strong enough safeguards for military veterans who are part of criminal cases who would be vulnerable to losing their gun rights.

Democrats support the measure but were also against it coming to the floor, however.  They seem to be pursuing a different strategy.

Aware that they probably have one shot at getting a vote on gun-related legislation in the Senate, Democrats appear to be holding out for a more comprehensive bill, or at least one that’s more impactful.  Voting on a bill that bolsters the existing background check system rather than expands or radically changes it, seems to be a waste of the momentum that has built up in the gun-control movement in recent weeks.

Instead, Democrats want to take advantage of this moment and pursue more consequential legislation.

“What will prevent future tragedy? Comprehensive background checks will. The Fix NICS bill will not,” Schumer said week. “Let’s not set our sights too narrow or squander this moment.”

Democrats are hoping to force a vote on tougher gun-control measures like universal background checks or an assault weapons ban.  The strategy is that even though such measures are likely to fail in the Senate, having such votes on record that they can use against Republicans during the upcoming midterm elections may be more advantageous.

The White House had indicated support for a measure that would raise the eligibility age for assault weapons purchases from 18 to 21, but President Trump in recent days has walked back his support for such a bill, leaving its fate uncertain.  Another proposal, the banning of the accessory known as the bump stock, is largely in the administration’s hands to take action on and not in Congress’.

Democrats, aware that this is the only leverage they have, seem to be holding out in order to get a more significant vote.  For now, it is unclear what the future of any gun debate, let alone gun legislation, is.

 

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Democratic Leaders in Congress Demand Extra $300 Million to Guard Against Potential Interference in 2018 Elections

Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have demanded an extra $300 million in funding to protect the U.S. from potential Russian meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.  The funding request was made in a letter to Republican leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congress is currently negotiating terms for an omnibus spending package that will set full spending levels for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year which runs through September.  The deadline for that package is March 23.  Schumer and Pelosi wrote in their letter that the extra funds are necessary to bolster America’s defenses against another potential attack by Russia in the upcoming elections.

“In order to ensure our nation’s premier law enforcement agency can adequately respond to this threat, we urge you to support a $300 million increase in the Bureau’s 2018 budget request.  This additional funding should be targeted to ensure the resources and manpower to counter the influence of hostile foreign actors operating in the U.S., especially Russian operatives operating on our social media platforms,” they wrote.

Sen. Schumer did not pledge to withhold Democratic support for a spending bill that did not include the extra funding but did emphasize the importance of giving the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies, the resources they need to combat any potential threat.

“We’re not drawing lines in the sand,” Schumer said. “We’re going to push hard to get this funding, and we hope it gets the support from our Republican colleagues.”

 

 

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