I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, February 11, 2019. 4 days until government funding expires. 357 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 631 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Border talks falter as threat of shutdown looms
With just days to go until government funding expires, congressional negotiations over border security have reportedly broken down. Lawmakers had been aiming to ink a final agreement over the weekend, allowing both the House and Senate to pass it this week, but a dispute over immigration enforcement have caused the talks to stalled. If no deal is signed into law by midnight Friday, the government will enter into another partial shutdown, just weeks after enduring the longest federal funding gap in U.S. history.
"The talks are stalled right now," Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), one of the 17 members of the bicameral border security conference committee, said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend, adding: "I'm not confident we're going to get there." Shelby placed the odds of reaching a deal at 50-50. "I hope and pray we do," he said.
The issue holding up the negotiations is a Democratic demand for a cap on the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds for undocumented immigrants detained by the agency. Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA), another conferee, said in a statement Sunday that such a cap would "force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country." Per Politico, Republicans are "refusing to negotiate" until Democrats drop their proposed 16,500-bed cap.
The negotiators have also yet to nail down exactly how much funding for barriers at the border their deal will include; according to the Washington Post, they were eyeing between $1.3 billion and $2 billion, a significant decrease from President Donald Trump's requested $5.7 billion.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, President Trump blamed congressional Democrats for the breakdown in negotiations. "I don't think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal," he wrote. "They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!" In another tweet, he said the Democratic lawmakers were behaving "irrationally."
Trump will travel today to El Paso, Texas, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border, for a campaign rally, where he is expected to press his case for increased border security. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is continuing to plan for the president to potentially declare a national emergency to unilaterally finance construction of a border wall. According to the New York Times, Defense Department officials met on Friday and over the weekend to "identify which Army Corps of Engineers construction projects would be tapped for money" if Trump does issue an emergency declaration, which Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have urged against.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he "absolutely cannot" rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown, adding that "you cannot take a shutdown off the table." The last shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office; about 800,000 federal workers (many of whom continued to fulfill their duties) missed two paychecks during the funding gap.
However, if an agreement isn't reached soon, lawmakers could approve a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to temporarily extend government funding. According to Politico, the White House is now open to a CR, after previously shooting down the idea. "A continuing resolution is probably where we'll go," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Trump ally, said in a Fox News interview on Sunday, acknowledging the stalled negotiations.
Klobuchar, Warren launch presidential bids
Two female Democratic U.S. senators formally announced their presidential campaign this weekend, adding to a growing primary field that has so far been dominated by women and minorities.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) launched her bid Saturday at a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the site of a 1912 labor strike led by women. Warren focused on the economic message that has been the hallmark of her political career, calling for "fundamental change" to the disparity between working people and the wealthy. "This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone," she said. "I am in that fight all the way. And that is why I stand here today: to declare that I am a candidate for President of the United States of America."
The next day, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced a bid of her own in a snowy, outdoor event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, drawing on her Midwestern roots to set herself apart in the crowded field. "On an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation's heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States," Klobuchar said.
Both candidates' rollouts came as they faced news stories that threaten to derail their campaigns: Warren continues to face fallout from falsely identifying as a Native American during her academic career, while Klobuchar has received attention for reports about the abusive culture in her Senate office.
In a sign of fireworks to come, President Trump welcomed both Democrats into the race with separate tweets attacking them: on Saturday, he once again referred to Warren as "Pocahontas," while making an apparent reference to the Trail of Tears; on Sunday, he said Klobuchar "looked like a Snowman(woman)" at her announcement.
With Warren and Klobuchar announcements, four female Democratic senators have launched presidential campaigns or presidential exploratory committees, the others being Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Fairfax impeachment: "A Democratic lawmaker in Virginia on Sunday sent his colleagues a draft resolution that would begin impeachment proceedings against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault."
"The resolution directs a House committee to determine whether allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Fairfax by two women, Meredith Watson and Vanessa C. Tyson, 'constitute conduct sufficient to provide grounds for impeachment.'" (New York Times)
Omar tweet: "Freshman Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar ignited a new controversy on Sunday night when she suggested GOP support for Israel is driven by campaign donations from a prominent pro-Israel group."
..."Omar's comments touched upon a long-running, and particularly ugly, thread of the anti-Semitic movement — that Jewish money fuels backing for Israel in the United States and elsewhere. A freshman Democrat, Max Rose of New York, said, 'Congresswoman Omar's statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.'" (Politico)
Jones death: "Rep. Walter Jones Jr., a 13-term Republican from eastern North Carolina whose about-face on the Iraq War came to define his congressional service, died Sunday on his 76th birthday, his congressional office confirmed." (NBC News)
--- Jones' death came just days after former Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, passed away Thursday at age 92.
White House schedule
POTUS: At 11:45 a.m., President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 12:30 p.m., he has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence. At 3 p.m., he signs an executive order on "Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence."
The president will then depart the White House for El Paso, Texas. At 9 p.m., he will hold a "Make America Great Again" rally at the El Paso County Coliseum. After the rally, Trump will return to Washington, D.C.
--- Fox News' Laura Ingraham also announced that she will interview the president in El Paso. The interview will air at 10 p.m. tonight.
VP: In addition to his lunch with the president today, the vice president sears in Kelvin Droegemeir as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at 5 p.m.
Senate: After convening at 3 p.m., the Senate will resume consideration of S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act, a bipartisan federal lands package. The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the measure at 5:30 p.m.
House: The House convenes at 12 p.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on five pieces of legislation:
- H.R. 1063 – Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2019
- H.R. 1065 – Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act of 2019
- H.R. 1064 – To amend title 5, United States Code, to allow whistleblowers to disclose information to certain recipients
- H.R. 995 – Settlement Agreement Information Database Act of 2019
- H.R. 1079 – CASES Act
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court is currently between sittings.
*All times Eastern