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Tag: government shutdown

Congress Averts Government Shutdown One Day Before Deadline

Washington (AFP) - The US Congress approved a stopgap funding bill Thursday in a rare show of cross-party unity to keep federal agencies running into 2022 and avert a costly holiday season government shutdown.

With the clock ticking down to the 11:59 pm Friday deadline, the Senate voted by 69 to 28 to keep the lights on until February 18 with a resolution that had already advanced from the House.

The "continuing resolution" avoids millions of public workers being sent home unpaid with Christmas approaching, as parks, museums and other federal properties and services closed.

"I am glad that, in the end, cooler heads prevailed -- the government will stay open," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

"And I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown."

Congress watchers had expected to see the resolution getting a rough ride in the Senate, where a small group of hardline Republicans threatened to tank the measure in protest over the White House's pandemic response.

But Democrats agreed to allow a straight majority vote on defunding President Joe Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate for large companies, which promptly failed as expected.

The right-wing Republican group, led by Utah's senior senator Mike Lee, argues that the mandate is an assault on personal liberty.

780,000 Dead

The pandemic has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and the troubling new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has raised fears of a winter surge in cases.

But legal challenges have mounted against Biden's edict requiring vaccination or weekly tests for some sections of the US workforce, including companies with more than 100 employees.

Lee had campaigned to remove federal funding to implement the mandate and was backed by right wingers in both chambers.

"If the choice is between temporarily suspending non-essential functions on the one hand and, on the other hand, standing idle as up to 45 million Americans lose their jobs, their livelihoods, and their ability to work, I'll stand with American workers every time," he said.

The figure Lee cited would represent more than a quarter of the 157 million people that make up the US workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

Only five percent of unvaccinated adults say they have left a job due to a vaccine mandate, according to an October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In the evenly divided upper chamber, any single senator can torpedo any vote.

But the majority of Senate Republicans -- including their leader Mitch McConnell -- were against the move, fearing they would be blamed for a shutdown.

Ahead of the House vote McConnell had indicated that Republicans would support the continuing resolution, although he gave no indication that he bring Lee and the other hold-outs to heel.

Deadlocked

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, earlier hit out at Lee and his backers, accusing them of "defiance of science and public health."

If Congress had failed to keep the government open, the closures would have begun just after midnight on Saturday and would likely have bled into the following week.

There has never been a shutdown during a national emergency such as the pandemic, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2018-19 stoppage wiped $11 billion from the economy.

The stopgap measure buys legislators time to negotiate full-year spending bills for the rest of fiscal 2022.

And with the threat of a shutdown off the table, Democratic leadership is now free to focus on passing Biden's domestic agenda -- a $1.8 trillion social welfare and climate spending plan.

The bill is central to Biden's legacy, but risks failing because of feuding between the Democrats' progressive and centrist factions.

Lawmakers are also deadlocked over the prospect of a first-ever US debt default that would erase an estimated six million jobs and wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth, tanking the economy.

The government is likely to run out of cash on or soon after December 15, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned, unless Congress raises the federal borrowing cap.

But Republicans say they won't help, despite having pressed for hikes under former president Donald Trump, because they want no part in the Democrats' historically large package of social reforms.

Desperate Millions Await Covid Relief While Trump Golfs With Graham

Reprinted with permission Alternet

Donald Trump is spending his final Christmas as President at his Palm Beach golf club with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), while millions of starving Americans unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic desperately wait to see if he will sign the COVID-19 relief bill.

Trump's failure to sign the legislation by the end of Saturday meant that 14 million people lost unemployment benefits -- and the $600 checks promised to most Americans by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be sent. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had promised the checks would be in the mail, or paid via direct deposit, this coming week.

"Trump heads off for golf on Christmas Day with Lindsey Graham as president complains stimulus bill flown to Mar-a-Lago contains too much 'pork' after he demanded Congress give Americans $2K checks," is the headline over at the Daily Mail.

There's video (below) of Trump with Graham in the presidential limo, which arrived at Trump's golf resort at 9:57 AM. Trump left the club at 2:05 PM.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had immediately rushed to support Trump's call for the $600 checks to be bumped up to $2000, which Democrats had been pushing for for months. Republicans in the House and Senate quickly killed the move.

"Families on brink of eviction, hunger describe nightmare Christmas as $900 billion relief bill hangs in limbo," The Washington Post reported late Christmas Eve.

There are massive repercussions if Trump either vetoes the bill, which he has repeatedly threatened to do, or issues a "pocket veto," meaning he allows it to expire without his signature, effectively vetoing it.

The federal government will shut down at midnight Monday if Trump does not sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual funding bill. Trump is demanding the legislation include an amendment voiding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He thinks if that portion of the CDA is gone social media companies will be forced to remove content critical of him. In reality they would likely shut down his social media accounts for spreading false information they would then be held liable for.

"Maybe nothing better could be expected in a year that saw denial and delusion, led by President Donald Trump, presage a wave of illness and death coupled with evictions, bankruptcies, hunger and ruined livelihoods," CNN's Kevin Liptak wrote Christmas Day.

Here's Trump and Graham earlier today:

Video: President Trump heads off for game of golf on Christmas Day | Daily Mail Online

President Donald Trump heads off for another game of golf in Palm Beach after throwing Washington into chaos in his final days in office.

If Only Boss Putin Would Order Trump To End Shutdown

So the world’s greatest negotiator has taken 800,000 hostages and threatens to shoot himself in the foot unless he gets his wall. Too bad the Democrats can’t subcontract the job of confronting his demands to Vladimir Putin. Faced with the Russian dictator, our bold leader rolls over on his back like a puppy dog.
Furthermore, Trump’s been doing it for years. And lying his big, flabby posterior off about it the whole time. For all intents and purposes, the President of the United States is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the organized crime syndicate otherwise known as the Russian government.
In Moscow, they call them “oligarchs,” fabulously wealthy individuals essentially granted monopoly control over large sectors of the Russian economy in exchange for fealty to Putin. It’s a way of doing business our own would-be strong man has always admired. A coarse blowhard with a taste for golden toilets, Trump fits right in.
See, that’s the half-acknowledged reality behind BuzzFeed’s apparent reporting blunder about whether or not Trump told his one-time “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his company’s pursuit of “Trump Tower Moscow” during 2016 presidential campaign.
BuzzFeed cited two anonymous law enforcement sources claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators had emails, texts and testimony proving that Trump instructed Cohen to testify falsely about the would-be Moscow real estate deal.
Great excitement ensued on CNN, MSNBC and the rest. “If true” pundits and editorial writers agreed, then Trump basically suborned perjury—a “high crime” under anybody’s definition. But the reason they all added the disclaimer was that other journalists couldn’t confirm BuzzFeed’s story.
Cohen has admitted giving Congress a false timeline: claiming that the Trump organization dropped the Russian deal in January 2016, although negotiations continued right up to the GOP National Convention that June.
(Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani has since extended the timeline until the November general election. But he’s not under oath on “Meet the Press.” Maybe Giuliani’s getting ahead of damaging revelations to come, or maybe he’s just a buffoon. Possibly both.
Rudy recently told the New Yorker : “I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’” He insisted that he always tells the truth, but that’s definitely not something you want your attorney to say.) 
As even Fox News loyalists know by now, Robert Mueller’s office made a rare public statement: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Hmm… “Not accurate” can mean a lot of things. The special counsel’s statement was both lawyerly and vague. BuzzFeed is sticking by its story. We shall see. But I am not holding my breath.
So anyway, let’s get real, shall we? Particularly in view of their long history as fellow con-men, Trump didn’t need to tell Michael Cohen to lie. All Cohen needed to do was to follow the master’s example. Trump’s been lying about his dealings with the Russians from the get-go. Virtually every word he’s ever said about the infamous Moscow Trump Tower is provably false.
It’s now come to the point where he’s lying about the lying, falsely claiming that everybody has always known about his Russian business interests, and besides, so what?
So what is that during the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly and indignantly denied any and all business relationships with Russia and Russians. The Washington Post has published a detailed timeline. On January 17, 2017, for example, he tweeted “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” In a same day press conference, he repeated “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away.”
Every word was a barefaced lie. And nobody knew that better than Vladimir Putin. What’s more, the relationship goes back decades. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Don, Jr. said in 2008. “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump told
a reporter in 2014.
Forget Moscow prostitutes, Putin understands that Trump’s bigger weakness is his insatiable greed. What’s more, by lying about it during the presidential campaign, he opened himself to political blackmail.
“He has been totally compromised from at least the day he signed a letter of intent to build that tower, writes Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman. “This is now beyond dispute.” 
Indeed. Trump was Putin’s pawn when he proposed lifting economic sanctions against the Russian regime, when he parroted the Russian anti-NATO and anti-EU line, when he called upon the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, basically during every minute of the 2016 campaign.
Worse, nothing has changed since inauguration.

On Saturday Night Live, Baldwin Returns To Play Shutdown ‘Deal Or No Deal’

To mark this moment of insanity, Alec Baldwin returns to Saturday Night Live as Donald Trump — where the stable genius plays a special Government Shutdown Edition of “Deal Or No Deal.” Hosted by Kenan Thompson as Steve Harvey, the sketch features comical offers from his antagonists in Congress, including Nancy Pelosi (Kate McKinnon), Chuck Schumer (Alex Moffat), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Melissa Villaseñor), and Maxine Waters (Leslie Jones).

When Pelosi offers to give him “$1 billion, and you say Nancy is my mommy,” Trump balks. The game goes nowhere until a Clemson football player shows up with a box full of “hamberders.”

Click and laugh.

 

Trump Blinks, Asks Congressional Leaders To ‘Make A Deal’

On Tuesday, President Trump on invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House for a “briefing on border security.” Scheduled for Wednesday, this will be their first bipartisan meeting, one day before Democrats take control of the House of Representatives. Homeland Security officials will brief the top two leaders from each party in the House and the Senate.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have indicated that the parties are any closer to agreement on the budget or Trump’s demand for $5 billion in additional spending on a border wall. But as the government shutdown entered its second week, Trump’s invitation was a sign that his hardline position may be faltering.

So was the tweet he posted later on Tuesday:

Border Security and the Wall “thing” and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?

For her part, Pelosi stuck to the plan announced earlier, to bring a funding bill to the floor on Thursday. She responded bluntly to Trump’s “deal” tweet:

.@realDonaldTrump has given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown – just the first sign of things to come in our new Democratic Majority committed to working #ForThePeople.

 

Pelosi is expected to win election as Speaker on Thursday — which will mean, among other things, a new year of accountability for Trump.

Danziger: Self Preservation

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Democrats, Hold Hearings On Trump’s Pointless ‘Wall’

As the New Year begins, it’s unclear how well President Trump grasps the altered political reality he faces. Indeed, using the words “reality” and “Trump” in the same sentence is a misnomer. One reason world’s biggest fabricator is also the world’s worst negotiator that he appears constitutionally incapable of recognizing the other side’s point of view.
Incoming Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to pass a clean budget resolution ending the government shutdown dramatizes how the president has put himself into a no-win position. Although the new budget proposal is all but identical to one passed unanimously by the Senate before Trump’s hostage-taking over his absurd “wall,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t allow a vote on anything the president opposes.
That’s because it would almost certainly pass, which would clarify things considerably. So who owns the shutdown? Donald J. Trump, who publicly declared he’d be “proud” to shut down the government on national TV, and promised not to blame Democrats—a characteristically worthless vow.
So what proportion of the American public supports Trump’s position? According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reported by NBC News, “just 35 percent of those surveyed…said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. Only 25 percent said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter.”
Cue the Pink Floyd music. Even a substantial proportion of the president’s vaunted “base” recognizes The Wall as a dead-bang loser. The only remaining question is the exact form the White House’s eventual climb-down will take. Like the Washington Post’‘s estimable Jennifer Rubin, I’m betting on a modest increase in spending for border security with no mention of The Wall. Trump can then erect “steel slats” in a photogenic position and claim victory.
Few will be fooled except possibly Trump himself. Meanwhile, House Democrats would be well-advised to convene reality-based hearings on border security and immigration reform. Now you’d think that with refugees crossing the English Channel in small boats in the dead of winter, even a self-proclaimed genius like Trump could figure out that as long as the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico remain in place, erecting a wall across some of most remote and forbidding landscape in North America would be an absurd boondoggle. Not to mention a symbolic affront to Mexico—our ally and neighbor.
Also a potential disaster for threatened wildlife in the Big Bend region of Texas and elsewhere. Not to mention that much of the land required is privately owned and would need to be taken by eminent domain, a time-consuming and costly process. Those are just some of the reasons why just about the only constituencies in the border region that appear enthusiastic about The Wall are “snowbirds” who relocated to places that actually used to be part of Mexico and are horrified to hear Spanish spoken.
Republican Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), whose southwest Texas district includes 820 miles along the Mexican frontier, has characterized Trump’s wall as “the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. 
As for restraining the drug trade, get real. There are probably more tunnels beneath the already-existing wall dividing Tijuana and San Diego than under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. Some have electric lights and small gauge rail tracks. Bulk drug shipments arrive not on the backs of campesinos trudging through the Sonoran desert, but tourists carrying concealed packages, hidden compartments in 18-wheelers, cargo containers on ships and airplanes, and fishing boats retrieving contraband at sea. That pesky ocean again!
The only realistic way to restrain the international drug trade is through legalization and the medicalization of addiction. But that’s a currently a non-starter, politically. So let’s move on, shall we?
Indeed, properly-run congressional hearings might allay Trump-inspired fears about a non-existent crisis at the border “You know what the real problem is? It’s that there is a big lie going on,” Linda Chavez said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We are not in the middle of an immigration crisis in the United States. In the year 2000, 1.6 million people were apprehended trying to get into the United States.”
“In fiscal year 2017, it was about 300,000. Now it did tick up in 2018, and there has been a shift. We are no longer seeing single men coming to work in the United States. We’re seeing families who are fleeing violence in their countries. We do need to do something about the asylum system.”
Chavez, a Republican veteran of several administrations, grew up in New Mexico and like millions of Americans, has relatives on both sides of the border.
Something else congressional hearings could clarify is that nobody’s for the “open borders” Trump rants about. Fear-mongering aside, they do favor practical, humane reform of America’s broken immigration system.
IMAGE: A Cochise County Sheriff officer stands along the border fence between the United States and Mexico near Douglas, Arizona March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich/File Photo

Trump: Government Will Stay Shut Until Congress Funds His Wall

In a brief Christmas Day session with reporters in the Oval Office, President Trump said the federal government will remain shut until Congress agrees to fund his proposed border wall.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he said during a photo op of his holiday video calls with soldiers serving abroad. “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.”

Asked whether he retains confidence in Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell following December’s historic stock selloff and market decline, Trump said, “Well, we’ll see. They’re raising interest rates too fast, that’s my opinion. But I certainly have confidence. But I think it’ll straighten. They’re raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good. But I think that they will get it pretty soon, I really do.”

Reporters also inquired whether he has confidence in Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who urged Trump to appoint Powell — and whose calls last Sunday to major bank executives, intended to reassure them, were blamed for the market plunge on Monday.

“Yes I do,” replied Trump. “Very talented guy, very smart person.”

He also insisted that federal employees furloughed without pay — many of them facing economic hardship — actually support his insistence that Congress appropriate $5 billion for the border wall. “Many of those workers have said to me, communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump said. “These federal workers want the wall.”

But federal union leaders ridiculed that claim. “Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told the Washington Post. “This shutdown is a travesty. Congress and the White House have not done their fundamental jobs of keeping the government open.”