Posts tagged with "Standoff"

In wall-funding ‘go-around,’ Trump could glom billions from disaster relief funds

January 14, 2019

President Donald Trump has been briefed on a plan that would use the Army Corps of Engineers and a huge chunk of change from the $13.9 billion of Army Corps budget to build 315 miles of barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of the situation, NBC News reports.

The money had been set aside to fund disaster recovery nationwide—including providing government backing to rebuild infrastructure in storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020.

However, those the checks have not been written yet and, under a national emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these high-priority civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, officials familiar with the briefing, as well as two congressional sources, told the network news outlet.

The plan could be implemented if Trump declares a national emergency in order to build the wall and would use more money and build more miles than the administration has requested from Congress. The president had requested $5.7 billion for a wall stretching 234 miles.

Under the proposal, the sources told NBC News, Trump could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated to projects in California, including flood prevention and protection projects along the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam; as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.J

Senior Defense Department officials discussed the proposal with Trump during his January 10 flight to the southern border, according to officials familiar with the briefing.

Trump was informed that the Army Corps could build 315 miles of border wall in about 18 months, according to officials familiar with the planning. The barrier would be a 30-foot bollard-style wall with a feature designed to prevent climbing, the officials said.

A source on Capitol Hill told the network that, if the president moves to pull money from Corps of Engineers civil works projects, Democrats in Congress are likely to submit legislation to block the money from being reallocated.

Research contact: @ckubeNBC

Trump: Federal workers who are ‘not getting paid’ are Democrats

December 28, 2018

On December 27, President Donald Trump resumed his feud with Democrats on Capitol Hill over $5 billion in funding for a border wall—claiming, according to a report by The Hill, that most of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay due to a partial government shutdown are Democrats.

“Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country,” Trump tweeted at 7:06 a.m. “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?” he added.

Why the president made that claim is anybody’s guess, but—since he has not hired replacements for the staff who worked in federal agencies during President Barack Obama’s term—perhaps he believes that those who remain on the payroll are Democrats.

The border wall has been the focal point of government funding negotiations between Capitol Hill and the White House. However, Democrats in both houses remain staunch in their opposition to funding the wall, with Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-California) calling it a “nonstarter.”

In early December, the Democrats pitched Trump $1.3 billion for border “security,” but the president—immediately facing pressure from conservative pundits—declared he would not accept that offer. Then, during a trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq on December 26, he doubled down, demanding that Democrats pay a $5 billion bottom line that had never been promised.

“Whatever it takes. We need a wall. We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the southern border,” he told reporters.

In a sign that the two sides are not yet close to reaching a compromise, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-Louisiana) office told The Hill on December 26 that no votes in the House were expected the next day and that members would receive 24 hours’ notice of when they needed to return to Washington, D.C.

Democrats will have significantly more leverage in negotiations come January 3, when the party officially takes control of the House.

Research contact: @talstales

Standoff on Special Counsel Act persists between Flake and McConnell

November  19, 2018

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona)—who is leaving the U.S. Congress in December, but flirting with a primary run against President Trump in 2020—has everything to win and little to lose. Last week, he pushed that advantage by taking to the Senate floor with across-the-aisle colleague Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware.) in an attempt to secure immediate passage of S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April by a bipartisan vote of 14-7, once again was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who continues to say that the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is not necessary because the probe is not under pressure.

However, following the president’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions one day after the midterm elections—and subsequent appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a White House acolyte—Flake asserted, “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it.”

And he backed that assertion with two threats: One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor. And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.”

At a closed-door lunch on the following day, November 15, both Flake and McConnell were equally implacable. “It’s a standoff,” said a Republican senator who attended the lunch, in an interview with The Hill.

According to the political news outlet, McConnell argued at the lunch meeting that the legislation would chew up precious floor time during the lame-duck session and leave less time for must-pass bills such as the unfinished spending bills and the farm bill, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Flake, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, didn’t buy that argument. Flake argued that the bill could be dealt with in a day as long as other members of the GOP conference didn’t object to it and force McConnell to waste time getting through a filibuster.

Some Republican senators floated the compromise of crafting some kind of non-binding resolution that would express support for protecting Mueller and future special counsels from unjustified dismissal. But Flake rejected that option, too, The Hill reported.

Asked Thursday if fellow GOP senators are unhappy with his hardball approach to getting a vote, Flake said, “That’s a safe assumption.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held over 15 judicial nominees at a committee business meeting Thursday after Flake declared he would block them. Speaking to reporters afterward, Grassley said he didn’t think he could move any more nominees without Flake’s support, unless he can convince Democrats on the panel to vote with him.

As the impasse continued, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that 40% of likely U.S. voters believe Mueller’s investigation should be closed. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election should continue.

Research contact: @alexanderbolton