What Now?!? – 1/5/2019

“The House of Representatives passed legislation to fully fund the government Thursday evening, but it is heading nowhere, and Congress is bracing for a potentially long shutdown,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“Both bills passed Thursday with the support of all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans (seven Republicans voted in favor of reopening most of the government through September, while five Republicans voted in favor of the DHS spending bill).”

“But it will do no good. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he will not bring the bills forward for a vote in the Senate, despite senators unanimously agreeing to a similar plan last month. And President Trump has said he will refuse to sign off on the House package because it does not include border wall funding. Trump has dug in on demanding $5 billion in wall funding be added to any spending bill.”

President Trump threatened to keep the partial government shutdown going for “months or even years,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said at the White House on Friday — comments Trump himself confirmed shortly afterward.  “We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time — months or even years,” Schumer said as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) exited a contentious meeting with the president on the shutdown’s 14th day.

Trump confirmed he’d said that.  “I did. Absolutely I said that,” he said when asked about Schumer’s claim in a Rose Garden press conference shortly afterwards.  Trump has refused to back off his demand for more than $5 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, forcing a government shutdown over his demands. Democrats continue to say that’s a nonstarter.

“For weeks, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has remained conspicuously on the sidelines, insisting that it was up to President Trump and Democrats to negotiate an end to the partial shutdown of the federal government,” the New York Times reports.

“But with the shutdown soon to enter its third week, and Mr. Trump dug in on his demand for $5 billion to build a border wall, Mr. McConnell for the first time is facing pressure from members of his own party to step in to resolve the stalemate that has left 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working without pay.”

Newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized President Trump’s proposed border wall as “a waste of money” and “an immorality” during a news conference hours after reclaiming the gavel in the new Congress, CNN reports.

Said Pelosi: “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt? We are not doing a wall.”

Washington Post: “In Trump, congressional Democrats and Republicans have found a principal who often changes his mind on a whim, whose messages to Capitol Hill can be mixed and who undercuts his own vice president and advisers in high-stakes negotiations with little hesitation.”

“But despite Trump’s unpredictability, lawmakers are wary of negotiating with any of his aides because they believe only Trump speaks for Trump — a lesson that has been reinforced in recent weeks.”

In one of her first duties as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi sent an official invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union on January 29.  But her letter’s opening was a clear and unmistakable message to the president: “The Constitution established the legislative, executive and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other.”

When asked by the New York Times “if she considers herself Mr. Trump’s equal,” Pelosi didn’t hesitate in her reply: “The Constitution does.”  We don’t know what what will happen over the next two years, but the new Speaker could not have set a more different tone than former Speaker Paul Ryan.

John Cassidy: “The rap on Warren is that she missed her best chance in 2016, allowing Bernie Sanders to seize the mantle of populist tribune, and blundered last fall by rekindling the controversy over her ancestry. These are backward-looking critiques, the force of which is yet to be determined. What we know for sure is that, with at least a dozen Democrats thinking seriously about entering the primary, it will take someone resolute, resilient, and well organized to prevail. The successful candidate will need a message that distinguishes her or his campaign from the pack and resonates with Democratic voters. Since the prize is a head-to-head contest with Donald Trump, the winner will have to be someone who doesn’t shy away from confrontation.”

“On all of these grounds, an argument can be made for Warren, who has been in the Senate since 2012. Ever since Trump launched his 2016 Presidential bid, she has been mocking him.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) “took her ceremonial oath of office using a copy of the Constitution rather than a religious book, as most members usually do,” the Arizona Republic reports.

“Sinema’s move, while legally irrelevant, may only heighten speculation that she is an atheist… Officially, Sinema identifies herself as religiously unaffiliated, and is the only member of the House or Senate to do so.”

The federal judge overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury in Washington, D.C., has extended the grand jury’s service for up to another six months, CNN reported Friday.

The grand jury, which has handed down a number of indictments in Mueller’s investigation, was seated by Judge Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the U.S. district court in D.C., in July 2017 and its 18-month term was set to expire soon.

Six months is a standard length of time for federal grand juries to be extended.

Frank Rich: “When Trump capitulates on the shutdown, he’ll say he’s “won” no matter what the particulars are. He’s already been readying that plan, at various times declaring that the wall is already nearing completion, or redefining the word “wall” as “steel slats” or “barrier” or whatever. (As Pelosi has joked, it will soon be a “beaded curtain.”) He knows that his base will buy any victory he claims, and it’s likely that the hard-liners at Fox News, including Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, will get with the program as well when there’s no other way out.”

President Trump argued that the Soviet Union “was right” to invade Afghanistan in 1979 because “terrorists were going into Russia,” a head-scratching aside that was widely criticized as historically inaccurate, CNN reports.  Said Trump: “The reason Russia was in, in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”

Worth watching: Rachel Maddow reviews instances of when President Trump parrots Russian narratives on international affairs in a way that seems oddly out of character from how Trump seems to understand the world.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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