Headlines: January 10, 2019
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President Donald Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Wednesday during talks over funding for the border wall which Trump wants included in a spending bill. According to the New York Times, “Stunned Democrats emerged from the meeting in the White House Situation Room declaring that the president had thrown a ‘temper tantrum’ and slammed his hands on the table before leaving with an abrupt ‘bye-bye.'” Pelosi and Schumer addressed reporters right afterwards.
The President promptly tweeted with pride about his behavior, saying, “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!”
Trump heads to the US border with Mexico on Thursday to continue his campaign to convince the American people that crime and violence is pouring across from Mexico. He is expected to visit a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, two days after delivering a live televised address on the border from the Oval Office. Media reports found that Trump’s address had a smaller viewership than the Democratic leadership’s response.
Just a day after Trump insisted in his Oval Office address that Mexico would pay for the wall, one of his administration officials admitted on CNN that American tax payers would pay for the wall. White House Strategic Communications Director Mercedes Schlapp said during an interview that funds generated through a new trade deal with Mexico would in effect pay for the wall, but admitted that ultimately the money would come from taxpayers.
Meanwhile, 20 days into the partial federal government shut down, GOP Senators who have remained largely silent are now attempting to negotiate a large immigration deal that would assuage both Trump and the Democrats and help restart government. According to CNN, “Republican senators are privately planning to court Democratic senators on an immigration deal that would give President Donald Trump money for his border wall and include several measures long-sought by Democrats, according to sources familiar with the matter.” Among the enticements they hope to tempt Democrats with is relief for DACA recipients as well as some restoration of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. It is not clear if either Trump or the Democrats would go along with such a bill.
Tired of being used as political pawns, federal workers plan to rally on Thursday at the capital to protest the on-going shutdown which looks on track to breaking records for being the longest shutdown in US history. The AFL-CIO’s Washington DC office will kick off the union-led rally and will featured federal workers impacted by the shutdown, as well as union leaders, and Congressional lawmakers. The food stamps and Medicare programs could become the next casualty of the shutdown, which would in turn impact many millions of Americans.
Already there are reports that federal workers with the Food and Drug Administration have had to stop their routine inspections of fresh produce, seafood, and other foods at risk of carrying food-borne illnesses. FDA head Scott Gottlieb has said he is struggling to return workers to continue their jobs but food safety experts warn that the public health is at serious risk if food borne diseases are not caught. Just over 40% of the FDA’s staff is furloughed because it has not received its federal appropriations to continue paying workers.
Meanwhile the group Public Citizen has released a new report addressing the dangers to consumer health and worker safety as a result of the shutdown. In addition to the FDA, the report covers agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and points out that, “The importance of these functions makes even slight capacity reductions a serious cause for concern, and it is noteworthy that the majority of federal workers at unfunded agencies whose responsibilities are considered essential are required to keep working without pay.”
In other news Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has met with Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr ahead of next week’s Senate confirmation hearings. He concluded that Barr will respect the on-going work of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating election wrongdoing in 2016. But Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee says she was unable to get a meeting with Barr ahead of his confirmation hearings because of the government shutdown. She said that she, along with her colleague Richard Blumenthal, were told they could only meet with Barr after the nomination hearing. They were told that the shutdown was the reason, this despite the fact that Republican Senators had no problems securing meetings with Barr.
And finally Los Angeles teachers are bracing for a strike that was to begin on Thursday. After days of stalled talks, thousands of teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district are strike-ready. The United Teachers of Los Angeles apparently did not give adequate notice for a strike on Thursday and might have faced a court-ordered injunction. The strike has now been postponed to Monday. If it goes ahead it will be the first teachers strike in Los Angeles in 30 years. The LA Unified School District has so far refused to tap into its massive $1.86 billion reserve in order to reduce class sizes, hire more school counselors, and ease other pressures on students and teachers.