Washington Dug In as Shutdown Fallout Mounts
Senators vote today on a pair of proposals to end the U.S. government shutdown. Nobody expects that will break the record impasse between lawmakers and President Donald Trump.
The annual State of the Union address has become the latest casualty of the partisan standoff over Trump’s call for Congress to fund a border wall. Trump bowed yesterday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand that he postpone the speech until the government reopens.
Pressure for a deal is mounting as the shutdown enters its 34th day. Trump’s support is slipping. Only 34 percent of Americans approve of his performance, down from 42 percent in December.
Federal workers will miss their second paychecks tomorrow. Lines at some airport security checkpoints are growing as employees, who are working without pay, call in sick. White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett warned that growth may slow to zero this quarter if the shutdown extends through March.
With Republicans and Democrats dug in, there’s no clear path out of the confrontation even as the long-term impact of the shutdown becomes more visible. It seems neither side is willing to blink first.
Who’s in charge? | The chaos engulfing the broken state of Venezuela, with opposition leader Juan Guaido declaring himself president (backed by the U.S., Argentina and Brazil) and incumbent Nicolas Maduro defiant against mass street protests, raises the question – is this time different? Maduro has faced down uprisings before, and been adept at exploiting opposition divisions. He controls the security forces, the military, courts, treasury coffers and the state oil giant. But if key elements of the military break ranks, or Maduro, who has been relatively restrained so far, mounts a firmer crackdown, the risks of an overthrow could rise quickly. Worth watching, too, whether the U.S. sanctions oil exports, which would further cripple Venezuela’s finances.
Familiar refrain | Germany’s Angela Merkel, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan are among the leaders in the Swiss Alps this week championing the system of rules that has underpinned the postwar order. But the comments sounded a little tired after months of Trump’s trade wars. Some at Davos also doubt China can hold the mantle of global defender against protectionism, given its longstanding failure to back words with actions to open its economy further.
Live ammunition | After decades of police beatings under Robert Mugabe, anti-government protesters in Zimbabwe are facing a new threat: gunshots. Since President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy, former armed forces commander Constantino Chiwenga, took office in 2017, human rights groups say the number of people killed or wounded by bullets is at its highest since the 1980s as soldiers take the lead in suppressing unrest over galloping inflation and food shortages.
Speaking out | Republican Senator Joni Ernst says she was raped in college by someone she knew and that her ex-husband physically abused her, one of the highest-profile women in her party to allege assaults in the era of the #MeToo movement. Ernst disclosed the rape in an interview with Bloomberg News, which she decided to do after details of her divorce were reported this week. Her ex-husband didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Protest vote | France’s Yellow Vest protesters have produced a list of candidates to run in May’s European parliament elections, and that may be good news for embattled President Emmanuel Macron. Polls show that the grassroots party would splinter the populist vote that’s now dominated by Marine Le Pen. Still, Yellow Vests militants who want to keep the movement leaderless have shot down past initiatives to enter politics.
And finally…Carlos Ghosn resigned as head of French carmaker Renault SA from a cramped prison cell in Japan, a stunning fall from grace for a man who once epitomized the jet-setting industrial elite. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced the departure to Bloomberg TV today in Davos, where Ghosn was an A-list regular before his arrest in November. Japan accuses Ghosn of financial misdeeds at Nissan Motor Co., Renault’s partner, that include understating his income by tens of millions of dollars. He denies wrongdoing.
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