Headlines: February 15, 2019
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UPDATED: President Donald Trump on Friday morning made an announcement from the White House that he was declaring a national emergency to obtain the funds to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. PLAY VIDEO. That’s Trump on Friday announcing he is declaring a national emergency to obtain funds for a border wall.
The US House of Representatives on Thursday evening passed a spending bill, just hours after the Senate also passed it, funding the government for another year. The bill includes billions of dollars in so-called border security and $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing on the US-Mexico border. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law later on Friday, the deadline for funding to run out. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he supported Trump’s plan to declare a national emergency to obtain the remainder of the $5.7 billion he has wanted to build a wall along the entire border. PLAY VIDEO. That’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday indicating his support for Trump’s declaration of a national emergency for border wall funding. According to AP, the White House is eyeing several funds from which the money could come, including, “disaster funds, counternarcotic accounts and military construction dollars.” The disaster funds include money set aside for Houston and Puerto Rico’s recovery from major hurricanes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted to the announcement saying there was no national emergency at the border. She also said, “You want to talk about an national emergency? Let’s talk about today, the first anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America,” referring to the Parkland, Florida, shooting that left more than a dozen high school students dead. “That’s a national emergency . . . A Democratic president could do that,” said Pelosi.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined his Democratic colleague in denouncing the idea of a national emergency declaration as well. Activist groups around the country are readying mass protests in response.
In other news, the Senate voted to approve former Attorney General William Barr to once more serve in the same position under the Trump administration. Barr was confirmed 54-45 almost entirely along party lines. Republican Rand Paul voted against Barr while three Democrats, Doug Jones of Alabama, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia joined Republicans in voting for him. Barr will now directly oversee the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign.
Andrew McCabe, former Director of the FBI, in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes said on Thursday that officials at the Justice Department had considered using the 25th Amendment to oust President Trump over his firing of then FBI director James Comey. McCabe has a new memoir that will be published next week called, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.” He said in the interview which is set to air on Sunday, “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion; that were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.” Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last March. Responding to reports of the interview President Trump ranted on Twitter, “Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a ‘poor little Angel’ when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax…” He added, “McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.”
The teachers strike in Denver, Colorado has ended after just 3 days. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association went on strike over stalled contract negotiations with Denver Public Schools and won $23 million in pay raises. Teachers will get an average 11.7% pay increase as well as cost-of-living increases. A merit-pay system that had been put into place several years ago is also being overhauled. In order to pay for the raises the District will remove some administrative positions in the central office and also end the practice of giving large bonuses to senior administrators in the district. It was the latest chapter in a wave of successful teacher strikes around the country.
The online retail behemoth Amazon, has pulled out of a high-profile proposal to build its new headquarters in New York City, leading activists to declare a huge victory. A massive pushback from progressive activist groups in conjunction with some city officials against the $3 billion in tax subsidies and incentives, resulted in Amazon pulling out. New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were among those pushing to bring Amazon to the area. In a statement Amazon said, “A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.” New York Congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hailed the Amazon withdrawal saying, “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
In international news, Cuban officials are warning that the US is moving Special Forces closer to Venezuela where the Trump administration is taking advantage of a political crisis. The Cuban government released a statement saying, “Between February 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations.” Additionally Cuba said, “These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions.” Inside Venezuela, opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself president with the support of the US, announced that he will start overseeing Venezuela’s oil production. It is unlikely he will actually be allowed to seize control however. Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro revealed in an interview on Thursday that his foreign minister had recently held secret meetings with the US Special Envoy Elliott Abrams in New York.