Democrats announce plan to end shutdown, punt border battle into February

Capitol Building illustration  Wikipedia Ed Uthman  Flickr

House Democrats released a fiscal 2019 spending plan this evening. Wikipedia Ed Uthman Flickr

The House will quickly elect Nancy Pelosi as its new speaker, and approve a package of Democratic-designed rules for the chamber that will govern its operations over the next two years.

"This isn't that hard: All Senate Republicans have to do is pass legislation they have already supported on a bipartisan basis", said one House Democratic aide.

It remains to be seen, however, if the White House will go along with this plan.

"I'm in Washington. I'm ready, willing and able", Trump told Fox News. He added: "No, we are not giving up".

However, University of Pittsburgh Professor of International Relations Michael Brenner told Sputnik that the Democrats were failing to take full advantage of Trump's extremism in threatening to critically damage the functioning of the USA national government.

Trump suggested as much again in a tweet on Sunday: "President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound". Senators were frustrated that Trump had dismissed their earlier legislation.

The GOP-controlled Senate passed that same measure earlier this month, but Trump rejected it.

"Democrats plan to pass a stopgap spending bill to fund the Homeland Security Department through February 8", wrote The Washington Post's Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim. It would provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to September 30.

Hours before today's proposals, USA Today first reported on them before they were announced, based on information from an unnamed senior Democratic aide.

The package would provide $13.2 billion for Interior, including full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, and $8.8 billion for EPA. He said it "will not be a legitimate answer to this impasse".

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The shutdown has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors to stay home or work without pay.

The partial government shutdown, which began on December 22, was precipitated by Trump's demand, under pressure from conservative commentators, that lawmakers approve US$5 billion to help fund a wall that was a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign, though he said at the time that it would be paid for by Mexico.

Dozens of tweets notwithstanding, Trump backed away the idea of a concrete wall ages ago, Kelly said.

After a few tweets about his foreign policy decision on Syria, Trump returned to emphasizing border security.

It marked the starkest admission yet by the president's inner circle that his signature campaign pledge, which sparked fervent chants of "build that wall" during Mr Trump's rallies and is now at the center of a budgetary standoff, would not be fulfilled as advertised.

Outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly finally got real in his final interview with The Los Angeles Times before leaving the Trump administration.

"The president still says "wall" - oftentimes frankly he'll say "barrier" or 'fencing, ' now he's tended toward steel slats". South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday cited several immigration proposals that previously failed to get sufficient Republican support as a possible starting place. Really, he said. "To be honest, it's not a wall".

Talks have been at a stalemate for more than a week, after Democrats said the White House offered to accept US$2.5 billion for border security. Graham said that Trump seemed "open minded" but noncommittal.

The new year will start like how 2018 ended: the federal government will be under a partial shutdown with no end in sight.

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