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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Immigration Reform Dies Again

Republicans made a last-ditch effort to pass a DACA solution this week only to have it thwarted by Democrats.  Are we seeing the beginning of a midterm election strategy by Democrats?  We discuss DACA and the failure of Congress to once again get an immigration bill passed in today’s episode.


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McConnell Set to Open Immigration Debate with No Particular Bill in Mind, Wants to Let a “Thousand Flowers Bloom”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved to begin debate on an immigration bill in the Senate in an unorthodox way – by not starting with an immigration bill.  McConnell said that he will not use a bill as the starting point for negotiation.  Instead, he will let senators propose amendments straightaway, allowing, essentially, an immigration bill to be built from scratch.

“The bill I move to, which will not have underlying immigration text, will have an amendment process that will ensure a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.

He said that he would allow senators from both sides to take turns in submitting proposals for votes.  “While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do,” he said.

During last month’s government shutdown, McConnell promised to bring an immigration vote to the floor of the Senate if one did not come up by February 8, the next funding deadline, providing the government remained open.  Democrats voted to end the government shutdown then, and then struck a deal with Republicans this past week on a two-year government budget going forward.  McConnell seems to be holding up his end of the bargain.

Asked whether he had a secret plan to pass a particular bill, McConnell said he didn’t, and vowed not to push the process in any one direction.  “Whoever gets to sixty wins,” McConnell said, alluding to number of votes necessary to break a filibuster.

The open-debate format will be a rare “opportunity for a thousand flowers to bloom,” he said.


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The Federal Government Shuts Down for Five Hours Then Reopens Overnight

The Federal Government shut down for five and a half ours overnight, then reopened as Congress got a sufficient number of votes in line to pass a massive spending bill that will keep the government funded.  The deal increases spending on domestic programs, as well as defense, making it appealing to just enough members on either side of the aisle to get it passed.  It does not, however, include any provisions on immigration.

Senator Rand Paul held a vote up in the Senate over the massive levels of spending in the bill.  The bill includes $300 billion in increased spending over the next two years including increases of $80 billion for defense and over $60 billion for domestic programs.  The deal also raised the debt limit so that it won’t be reached again until March 2019.  It also contained $90 billion in disaster relief for hurricanes and wildfires.

Paul wanted a vote on an amendment that would have kept Congress under strict budget caps, as well as removed the debt limit provision from the package.  Because the budget deal was filed late on Wednesday, consent from all 100 senators was needed to hold a vote before the deadline at midnight.  Any one senator could have held the vote up, and Paul did.

Paul pleaded with other Senators from the Senate Floor to rein runaway spending in.  “Your grandkids are being stuck with the bill! Mark my words, the stock market is jittery,” Paul said. “It’s worth a debate whether we should borrow a million dollars a minute.”

“I’m not advocating for shutting down the government. I’m also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute,” Paul added subsequently during an interview.  “This is reckless spending that is out of control.”

Republican Leadership never granted Paul a vote on his amendment and shortly before 2 a.m., the budget bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 71-28.

Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a marathon-8-hour speech on the House floor on Wednesday pleading with fellow Democrats to oppose the deal because it didn’t include a solution on DACA.  In the end though, enough Democrats broke ranks and voted for the bill to pass.  The House vote took place at about 5:30 a.m. this morning, and passed by a vote of 240-186.  Seventy-three House Democrats voted for the bill.

The bill now goes to President Trump’s desk where is the President is expected to sign it quickly in order to minimize any major disruptions to the operation of the federal government.


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Senator Mike Lee: Budget Deal Betrayal of Limited Government Conservatism, I Will Be Voting No

Senator Mike Lee announced his opposition to a budget deal put forth by Senate Leadership this week.  In a statement to ITN, the Senator said through a spokeswoman: “This budget deal is a betrayal of everything limited government conservatism stands for and I will be voting no.”

The deal put forth by Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer would increase spending levels by roughly $300 billion over two years.  It would also lift the debt ceiling until after the midterm elections and increase disaster relief funds by $90 billion.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has put a hold on the budget vote for now.  Under Senate rules, all 100 senators must agree to hold a vote and any one senator can put a hold the bill.  In exchange for his vote Paul is asking for a vote on an amendment that would re-impose strict budget caps.

Senate Leadership expressed optimism that a deal would get worked out but acknowledged the uncertainty.  “I think it will all work out. But it’s up in the air,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.

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Pelosi Holds the Floor for a Record 8 Hours, Announces Opposition to Budget Deal Over DACA

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held the floor yesterday for a record 8 hours and 7 minutes, in what was the longest floor speech in House of Representatives history.  Pelosi was announcing her opposition to a Senate deal on the budget that was reached earlier in the day.

Pelosi’s opposition centers on that the budget deal reached between Senate Leaders Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, includes no solution for DACA recipients.  Pelosi spent much of the time on the floor reading stories of individuals known as DREAMers – people who came to the country illegally, at a very young age.

In ironing out a compromise to the government shutdown last month, Mitch McConnell promised to bring votes in the Senate on immigration, defense and other Democratic demands.  McConnell’s promise was on the condition that those things were not already included in any budget deal, and that the Democrats do not shut the government down again over them.

Pelosi says that without the same assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan, McConnell’s promises are meaningless though.  “Without that commitment from Speaker Ryan, comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus,” Pelosi said.

Despite opposition from progressive, as well as conservative, factions in Congress, party leadership, on both sides, expressed optimism that a deal would get done and that a bill would be on the President’s desk by Thursday night, in time to avoid a shutdown.


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House Freedom Caucus Announces Opposition to Budget Deal

The House Freedom Caucus, the influential group of about 30 or so conservative lawmakers has announced its opposition to the budget deal struck yesterday in the Senate.  Senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer announced a budget deal that would keep the government funded for two years and raise spending levels by about $300 billion.

The caucus released their official position in a tweet yesterday evening, highlighting their main criticism – increased spending levels.

House Freedom Caucus on Twitter

Official position: HFC opposes the caps deal. We support funding our troops, but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do.

In addition to raising spending by about $300 billion the deal also increases the debt limit so that it will not be met until after the midterm elections.  The spending increases are not offset by spending cuts, something House conservatives say they wanted.

Many conservatives expressed disappointment that a bill with such contours could get the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan, himself a fiscal conservative.  “[I]… never thought the Speaker would go here with these high numbers,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the Freedom Caucus.

Party leadership, on both sides of the aisle, expressed optimism that a deal would get done and that a bill would be on the President’s desk by Thursday night, in time to avoid a government shutdown though.


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Senate Leaders McConnell and Schumer on Verge of Budget Deal That Would Avert Government Shutdown

Senate Leaders Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer have reached a deal on the budget that will keep the government funded for two years and avert a government shutdown.  The deal is expected to be announced as early as today.

The agreement would increase domestic spending by $63 billion and military spending by $80 billion for the next two years.  It would also extend disaster relief, fund community health centers and opioid treatment, all Democratic demands.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi complicated matters though by indicating that the bill, as constituted, does not have her support.  The deal would not include a solution on the immigration program known as DACA, something Pelosi said is a requirement for her support.

“The budget caps agreement includes many Democratic priorities,” a statement from Pelosi read. “This morning, we took a measure of our Caucus because the package does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in the House. Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

Pelosi is not the only House leader that expressed dissatisfaction with the deal however.  Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, Chairman of the influential House Freedom Caucus also indicated his dismay at the deal.

“There’s negotiations going on even at this hour right now on the spending, and I’m afraid that the deal that they’re going to announce, Chuck Schumer will be very happy about that, the Freedom Caucus members won’t,” Meadows said during an interview this morning.


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Schumer and McConnell Hatch Deal That Would Keep Government Open, Funded Through 2019

Senate Leaders, Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell announced that they are close to a deal on the budget that would keep the government funded for two years, Schumer said from the floor of the Senate today.  The deal would keep the government funded for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and would avoid the prospect of another government shutdown.

The plan was laid out in this way: The senate will vote on a one year defense appropriations bill either today or tomorrow.  That vote is expected to fail but it is intended to demonstrate that a six-week military spending bill expected to pass the House doesn’t have enough support to pass the Senate.

If Senate Democrats block that bill, McConnell would then amend the House bill to include whatever deal he and Schumer strike within the next twenty-four hours.  If he and Schumer fail to strike a deal, McConnell could then amend the House bill with a failsafe option that would keep the government open.

The government shutdown for three days last month after an agreement on immigration and defense, among other issues, could not be reached.  The government was reopened with a bill that funded the government through February 8, on the condition that McConnell would bring votes on those issues to the floor if a compromise wasn’t worked out by that date.

McConnell said earlier today that he had a positive meeting with Schumer.  “I’m optimistic that very soon we’ll be able to reach an agreement,” he said.


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Two Days Away from Another Government Shutdown, Lawmakers Have Yet to Make a Move

Two days away from a government shutdown, there is still is no indication how, or when, the debate over a sweeping immigration reform bill will begin.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to bring bills covering immigration, defense and other issues to the floor for votes if no solutions were set forth in the spending bill that needed to pass before February 8 in order to keep the government open.

Conservatives are pushing McConnell to bring the White House’s plan to a vote even though all Democrats, as well as a considerable portion of Republicans, oppose it.  That plan calls for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, $25 billion in border wall funding, and an end to chain migration and the visa lottery programs.

Democrats oppose that plan but have yet to propose a counter-proposal.  Deputies in each chamber that were enlisted to find a compromise haven’t gotten nowhere.  The budget deadline is two days away.

Republican Senate number two, John Cornyn, was asked what kind of bill McConnell plans to introduce as the starting point for negotiations.  “I don’t know,” he responded.  “That’s Senator McConnell’s decision to make, and I don’t know.”


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