By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Speaker Pelosi in Afghanistan on a prior visit.
January 20, 2019 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have ratcheted up the battle over the government shutdown.
Last week, Pelosi sent a letter to the President asking him to delay his State of the Union speech to Congress or submit it in writing. "Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29," Pelosi wrote.
Trump retaliated the next day, announcing he was cancelling the military transport for trip by Pelosi and a Congressional delegation to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” he said. “I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown.”
The President stated publicly that Pelosi’s group could fly commercial instead—but by revealing travel plans kept secret for security purposes, he forced the Congressional delegation to cancel its trip entirely since travel on commercial flights would put elected officials and troops at risk. The cancellation was made after the State Department warned the delegation that Trump’s letter “significantly increased danger” to lawmakers, other officials and troops.
Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued this statement condemning Trump’s actions.
“For a president to cancel and leak the details of a Speaker’s trip to a war zone is beyond reckless. The importance of confidentiality until members and those accompanying safely returned from their mission is paramount. Not only did he and his staff endanger the Speaker and other members on the trip, but he also endangered our troops, security personnel, and the other travelers on our flights. It's appalling that the Commander in Chief who is supposed to protect the American people is the one putting us in danger.”
Trump blames Congressional Democrats for refusing to pass a budget with $5 billion in funds to build a border wall which he contends is needed for national security to prevent migrants, drug smugglers and traffickers from crossing illegally into the U.S.
Democrats counter that they were elected with a mandate, winning 40 seats in the House in November and polls indicate the majority of Democrats as well as most Americans overall oppose building a border wall.
On Saturday, Trump announced he would extend protections against deportation for three years to young immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if Democrats would fund the wall. But Democrats remain unwilling to trade temporary protections for a permanent and costly border wall.
“Democrats were hopeful that the President was finally willing to re-open government and proceed with a much-needed discussion to protect the border,” Pelosi said in a statement, adding, “Unfortunately, initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.”
The Speaker said Democrats would be willing to support “smart, effective border security solutions” including:
- Increased infrastructure investments at our ports of entry including additional ports and roads;
- Advanced technology to scan for drugs, weapons and contraband where the vast majority of drugs come in to our country and advanced technology to detect unauthorized crossings;
- More customs personnel including filling the more than 3,000 customs and border patrol vacancies; and
- More immigration judges.
Next week, Democrats plan to pass a package of six bills agreed to by House and Senate negotiators, along with their legislation to re-open government and negotiate on border security proposals. Pelosi urged Trump to sign the measures and end the shutdown.
The shutdown, now a month old, is the longest in U.S. history.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, from food inspectors to park rangers, and others are working without pay including Coast Guardsmen, FBI agents, border patrol officers, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at airports. Funds have run out for CalFresh (formerly known as food stamps) and those with low-income housing subsidies are also in jeopardy. Many national parks and museums remain closed. Locally the shutdown has halted controlled burns in Cleveland National Forest, raising the risk of wildfires if the burns cannot be completed soon.