Government Should Open Before Emergency Ripcord Pulled, Graham Says
(Bloomberg) -- Senator Lindsey Graham said he’d like Donald Trump to reopen the federal government on a temporary basis to see whether a deal can be reached to fund the president’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and declare a national emergency if not.
“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug. See if we can get a deal,” Graham, a Republican of South Carolina who has called on Trump to invoke emergency action, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers. That’s my recommendation.”
Trump sees the declaration of an emergency as a last resort and still hopes to make a deal with Democrats to reopen the federal government, Graham said, adding that he spoke to Trump earlier in the day. Another Republican, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is “willing to meet in the middle” to end a partial U.S. government shutdown, now at a record 23rd day.
Meanwhile, Democrats remained resolute that Trump and Republican lawmakers should end the shutdown before rejoining the debate over how to best secure U.S. borders and reform immigration laws.
“More border security -- let’s have at it,” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “But while we’re having that debate, let’s reopen the government.”
Trump sent a series of Twitter messages on the shutdown Sunday morning, including one that returned to an original theme of his 2016 presidential campaign: that many immigrants are criminals. Building a wall, Trump said, “will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!”
A later tweet said damage from “Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad” were worse for the U.S. than the government shutdown.
About 800,000 federal workers missed their pay for the first time Friday, as impacts spread from the stoppage that began on Dec. 22. Functions not happening include some routine food inspections, timely release of market-moving agriculture data, and U.S. reviews needed for initial public offerings of stocks.
Democrats and the president remain at loggerheads. Party leaders say they won’t agree to fund any kind of wall or barrier between the U.S. and Mexico beyond what’s already in place, and Trump insists he won’t agree to reopen the government until the wall is funded.
Trump said on Fox News on Saturday night that he has an “absolute right to call a national emergency” over border security. On Friday, though, he said he wasn’t rushing to use that option -- which would be challenged in court and, if not overturned, establish a precedent expanding the power of future presidents who could include Democrats.
Graham said that in his conversation with Trump, the president indicated he would support “wall plus,” meaning other immigration policies that so far congressional leaders in both parties haven’t embraced and are seen as likely to further complicate the talks.
The “wall plus” plan could include an extension of temporary protected status for about 400,000 immigrants in the U.S. because of disasters back home in El Salvador and elsewhere, and renewable three-year work permits for young, undocumented “Dreamers,” he said.
“I don’t want to speak for the president, I don’t want to lock him in, but I am confident what I just described with a few other things would be a deal acceptable to the White House and a lot of Democrats,” Graham said. “I’m just so frustrated we can’t get into a room and hammer it out.”
Democrats in Congress insist Republicans step in and force Trump’s hand. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said on ABC’s “This Week” that “one phone call” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could get the ball rolling to reopen the government. Instead, McConnell last week vowed to stand with Trump in the wall debate, after the president met with all Senate Republicans and pleaded for party unity behind his wall quest.
A Washington Post/ABC poll on Sunday showed 53 percent of respondents put Trump and Congressional Republicans at fault for the extended government closure, while 29 percent blame Democrats. Two-thirds of Republicans surveyed would support a move by Trump to declare an emergency to build a border wall, though 66 percent of all respondents said they oppose it. Separately, a CNN poll showed 56 percent of Americans oppose construction of Trump’s hoped-for border wall.
Durbin said the shutdown will end “when the Senate Republicans say, ‘We’ve had enough. We’re not going to stand here and be blamed for this. We believe the government should be opened.”
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’d “hate to see” an emergency declaration by Trump. “The easiest solution to the shutdown, just give President Trump the money,” he said.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said on “Meet the Press” that Democrats have backed more funding for border security “over and over and over again.”
“What we don’t want to do is waste taxpayer money on a vanity project that’s ineffective that the president said Mexico would pay for,’’ Kaine said.
As the shutdown drags into a fourth week, each side has blamed the other. The White House has contended that Democrats are refusing to negotiate, while Democrats accuse Trump of forcing government workers to go unpaid as leverage to get $5.7 billion for a wall that voters don’t want.
The shutdown on Saturday became the longest U.S. government closure of the modern era, exceeding the 1995-1996 funding lapse, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.
Transportation Security Administration workers have gone without pay during the shutdown and some have responded by calling in sick. Miami International Airport on Saturday closed its least-used concourse due to a shortage of TSA officers, according to the Miami Herald. The proportion of TSA workers on unscheduled leave on Saturday was 5.6 percent, compared with 3.3 percent on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said in a tweet.
As the shutdown has continued, both the House and Senate have approved legislation that would provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends. Trump has said he’ll sign it.
Meanwhile, a group of Senate Republicans led by Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said they’ll introduce legislation that would pay salaries of “essential” government workers during the shutdown. Senate Democrats, whose votes would be needed to advance such legislation, have not indicated whether they would back it because they want the government to reopen instead.
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