Trump stops short of emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion in bor­der wall fight

Stabroek News - - World News -

WASH­ING­TON, (Reuters) - Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said yes­ter­day he would not de­clare a na­tional emer­gency “right now” to end a stand­off over bor­der se­cu­rity that has idled large swaths of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, all but guar­an­tee­ing that he will pre­side over the long­est shut­down in U.S. his­tory.

The dis­pute has dis­rupted ev­ery­thing from air travel to tax col­lec­tion and sus­pended pay for 800,000 gov­ern­ment work­ers.

Trump has re­peat­edly de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion at the U.S.- Mex­ico bor­der as a “hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis” as spec­u­la­tion has in­creased this week that he would cir­cum­vent Congress to be­gin build­ing his sig­na­ture wall a move that would be sure to draw a court chal­lenge from Democrats who say the bar­rier would be bar­baric and in­ef­fec­tive.

In­stead, the pres­i­dent urged law­mak­ers to pro­vide him the $5.7 bil­lion he is seek­ing for bor­der se­cu­rity.

“The easy so­lu­tion is for me to call a na­tional emer­gency. I could do that very quickly,” Trump said dur­ing a White House event on bor­der se­cu­rity. “I have the ab­so­lute right to do it. But I’m not go­ing to do it so fast. Be­cause this is some­thing Congress should do.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mocked the pres­i­dent as she told re­porters it was up to Trump to make the next move.

“Let’s give him time to think it through. Think? Did I say think?” she said.

Trump spoke af­ter law­mak­ers had ad­journed for the week­end, pre­clud­ing any pos­si­ble ac­tion un­til next week. To­day, the shut­down will be­come the long­est in U.S. his­tory.

Ear­lier on Fri­day, the Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted 240-179 to re­store fund­ing for the In­te­rior De­part­ment and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, two of the agen­cies that have been shut­tered since Dec. 22.

But Repub­li­cans who con­trol the Sen­ate have so far stood with Trump and in­sisted that any spend­ing bills in­clude money for his wall. The cham­ber wrapped up busi­ness for the week with­out tak­ing up the Housep­a­ssed bill.

A na­tional emer­gency would al­low Trump to di­vert money from other projects to pay for the wall, which was a cen­tral prom­ise of his 2016 cam­paign. That, in turn, could prompt him to sign bills that re­store fund­ing to agen­cies that have been af­fected by the shut­down.

Di­vert­ing money to the wall could short­change flood-con­trol ef­forts in Cal­i­for­nia and re­con­struc­tion pro­grams in Puerto Rico, which was dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Maria in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Demo­cratic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Gara­mendi, who rep­re­sents a dis­trict in Cal­i­for­nia that would po­ten­tially be af­fected.

Trump al­ready has threat­ened to with­hold dis­as­ter-re­cov­ery ap­proved in the wake of Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires.

“He has done ev­ery­thing he can to harm Cal­i­for­nia,” Gara­mendi told Reuters in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

Some of Trump’s fel­low Repub­li­cans are warn­ing against a dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion, say­ing it would un­der­cut Congress’s power un­der the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion to con­trol gov­ern­ment spend­ing - and make it eas­ier for a fu­ture Demo­cratic pres­i­dent to by­pass Capi­tol Hill.

“It’s a bad prece­dent,” Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Chuck Grass­ley said on CNBC.

Mean­while, the im­pact of the shut­down be­gan to mount.

Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port said it will close one of its ter­mi­nals early over the next sev­eral days due to a pos­si­ble short­age of se­cu­rity screen­ers, who have been call­ing in sick at twice the nor­mal rate.

A union that rep­re­sents thou­sands of air traf­fic con­trollers sued the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Fri­day, say­ing it had vi­o­lated fed­eral wage law by fail­ing to pay work­ers. It is at least the third law­suit filed by unions on be­half of un­paid work­ers. Roughly 800,000 fed­eral work­ers did not re­ceive pay­checks that would have gone out on Fri­day. Some have re­sorted to sell­ing their pos­ses­sions or post­ing ap­peals on on­line fundrais­ing sites to help pay their bills.

Nancy Pelosi

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