Senate Democrats considering blocking all legislation that doesn’t reopen the government

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Senate Democrats will try to block action on a Syria sanctions bill when it comes up for a vote Tuesday, an effort to keep the focus on the government shutdown.

Democrats also will discuss at their weekly policy lunch Wednesday whether to broaden that blocking tactic to all legislation, according to a senior Democratic aide.

A separate senior Democratic aide said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “has notified the (Democratic) caucus that he will vote against proceeding to S.1 because Senate Republicans should instead bring to the floor the House-passed bills to reopen the government.”

Over the weekend, the two Democratic senators from Maryland — Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen — who represent thousands of furloughed federal government workers, first publicly raised the idea of blocking bills on the floor to raise the political stakes on President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is refusing to put any government funding bills on the floor unless Trump supports them.

Senate Democrats1

McConnell has said he won’t make his members vote on a bill to reopen the government without assurances that Trump would sign it, though at least two Republican senators have pushed to reopen the government while wall negotiations continue.

The measure in question Tuesday, combines four Middle East-related bills, including new sanctions on the Syrian regime, and is viewed by critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops there as a vehicle to speak out against that move.

The government partially shut down late last year following a lapse in funding for 25% of the federal government largely over Trump’s demand for $5 billion for his signature campaign promise of a border wall. Democrats have refused to budge on Trump’s demand, despite talks throughout the weekend aimed at reopening the government.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn expressed his annoyance at Democrats having blocked so many of the Cabinet nominees in the last Congress and noted that the ones not confirmed last cycle have to be re-appointed.

All 4 living ex-presidents indicate Trump’s claim that ‘some of’ them agree with him about the wall isn’t true

All 4 living ex-presidents indicate Trump Claim

President Donald Trump said Friday that a former president had commended him for his commitment to securing funds to build a wall along the nation’s southern border.

However, none of the four living former presidents have said they told Trump they wished they had built the wall.

In a news conference Friday, Trump suggested that at least one prior commander in chief had agreed with his desire to build a wall.

“This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me,” Trump said. “And they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”

But his predecessors have denied such a conversation.
Jimmy Carter, the oldest living former president, said Monday that it wasn’t him.

“I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump, and do not support him on the issue,” Carter said in a statement tweeted by The Carter Center on Monday afternoon.

Freddy Ford, a spokesman for former President George W. Bush, told CNN that “they haven’t discussed this.”

Former President Bill Clinton spokesman Angel Urena said Clinton “never said that,” adding that “they’ve not talked since inauguration.”

A spokesman for Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, did not respond directly to a CNN request for comment, instead passing along comments Obama made as president in which he said a wall isn’t necessary.

All 4 living ex-presidents indicate Trump Claim

“A nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” Obama told the assembled representatives of the UN’s member states in September 2016.
In a commencement address at Rutgers University in May 2016, Obama blasted the idea and said a wall was antithetical to America’s history of attracting and growing from “strivers.”

“Suggesting that we can build an endless wall along our borders, and blame our challenges on immigrants — that doesn’t just run counter to our history as the world’s melting pot; it contradicts the evidence that our growth and our innovation and our dynamism has always been spurred by our ability to attract strivers from every corner of the globe,” he said to a cheering crowd.

Obama’s representatives didn’t respond to CNN last week when asked if he was the former president who had spoken with Trump and praised the wall. CNN reached out to Obama’s representatives again Monday.

Trump plans prime-time address, border visit as shutdown fight continues

Trump plans prime-time

President Donald Trump will seize the power of the bully pulpit this week amid the ongoing government shutdown, making his case for border wall funding in a prime-time Oval Office address that he will quickly follow up with a visit to the southern border.

The back-to-back events reflect a new attempt by the President to cast the deadlock over immigration as a national security crisis, a characterization that Democrats reject but which the President’s aides believe will bolster support for a border wall.

The President tweeted he will “address the nation” Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET “on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern border,” two days before he is scheduled to visit the border. Trump indicated to aides over the weekend that he was interested in delivering a prime-time address to call attention to the issue, but it was not immediately clear whether TV networks had agreed to clear airtime for a presidential address.

Bill Shine, the deputy chief of staff for communications, was set to meet with aides Monday afternoon to discuss the address. The New York Times first reported Trump’s desire to address the nation.

Two days later, Trump will head to the US-Mexico border to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Monday morning on Twitter.
The President’s decision to deliver a prime-time address and visit the southern border came after some of his allies warned him his arguments about immigration aren’t resonating, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In conversations over the past two weeks, some of the President’s advisers have told him that simply tweeting and speaking off-the-cuff wouldn’t alone suffice in convincing Americans a border wall is necessary. Inside the White House, some view the quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as a lost opportunity that could have been used to drive home an urgent message about the necessity of a border wall while Congress was out of town.

Trump plans prime-time

Some of Trump’s aides view his “build the wall” slogan as no longer having the same impact it once did during the campaign because Trump has used it so frequently. The phrase lacks the urgency needed to break the shutdown impasse, some of Trump’s advisers have told him.

That’s prompted an effort inside the White House to develop plans for higher-profile messaging events that would allow Trump to underscore what he says is a border crisis.

Trump sought to begin executing a new strategy when he appeared in the White House briefing room with border patrol officials last Thursday, believing the setting would lend some authority to his message. But afterward some aides viewed the event as a dud that didn’t have the breakthrough effect that was desired.

Trump administration officials have pointed to a surge in migrant families crossing the border to make their case that the situation at the southern border is reaching critical proportions.

But Trump and his top officials have also pointed to misleading statistics to suggest terrorists are attempting to enter the United States through the southern border. Sanders, for example, falsely claimed on Sunday that “nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally,” even though the overwhelming majority of those individuals are blocked from entering the US at airports.

Pressed about the terrorism claims during an impromptu Rose Garden news conference last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed to another statistic: that more than 3,000 “special interest aliens” have tried to enter the US through the southern border, suggesting those individuals “have travel patterns that are identified as terrorist travel patterns or they have known or suspected ties to terrorism.”

But those individuals could also simply be coming from countries “where terrorism is prevalent, or nations that are hostile to the United States,” as Nielsen’s predecessor John Kelly previously defined the term.