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House, Senate At Odds Over Border Wall

House passes stopgap funding bill with $5 billion for Trump’s border wall, at odds with Senate. NBC: “The House passed a stopgap measure Thursday night to fund the government that includes $5 billion for a border wall sought by President Donald Trump. The bill is expected to be rejected in the Senate, and does little to prevent a shutdown on Saturday. The vote of 217 to 185 on Thursday night puts the House at odds with the Senate, which on Wednesday night passed a funding bill that does not include border wall money. The Senate will now have to consider the House version before midnight Friday to avert a partial government shutdown, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled to members to be ready for a possible vote on Friday at noon. Democrats, however, will most certainly block the measure in the Senate. With 60 votes needed to advance an appropriations bill to a final vote, Republican senators need Democratic votes to make it over that threshold.”

Trump Cuts Food Stamps To 800,000 Just Before Christmas

Trump gives Paul Ryan a going-away gift, kicks 800,000 people off food stamps. ThinkProgress: “It was a classic bait and switch. On Thursday, in the hours before the Oval Office was set to host President Donald Trump’s ceremonial signing of a farm bill — one which had been lauded by anti-hunger advocates for sparing the food stamps program of deep funding cuts — the Trump administration quietly announced its plan to dump hundreds of thousands of people off of the food assistance program. It was a quick end to a much ballyhooed example of bipartisan compromise. A few months ago, the kind of multi-billion-dollar slashing of food aid that President Donald Trump had called for in his previous budgets seemed almost inevitable. Republicans had control of every choke point of the federal government, and they’ve long wanted to carve up the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It was indeed a victory to have defeated that dire impulse in the law that simultaneously sets the table for both farmers and the destitute. Or it could have been such a victory. But earlier Thursday morning, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made good on the promise he’d issued after Republican leaders compromised to get the farm bill over the line before control of the House reverted to Democratic hands. The hard-hearted food stamps policies will happen, after a fashion, without anyone elected by the people having to leave their fingerprints at the scene of the crime.”

DHS’s Nielsen Doesn’t Know How Many Die In Her Custody

DHS Secretary Nielsen struggles to answer basic questions during hearing. Vox: “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday — and she couldn’t answer a number of basic questions lawmakers asked her about immigration and border security. The hearing came less than a week after DHS announced that a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin died in Border Patrol’s custody, and as President Donald Trump is threatening to shut down parts of the federal government unless he receives $5 billion toward a border wall he promised Mexico would pay for. But while Nielsen had good reason to expect tough questions, she seemed unprepared to deal with them. After Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) noted that ‘there are so many people watching this hearing from my district, and they have some basic questions,’ she proceeded to ask Nielsen one of them: ‘How many legal points of entry are there across the US-Mexico border?’ Nielsen, however, was stumped. ‘Ah, I — it’s late in the day, and, it’s about, ah, between 20 and 30 is my recollection,’ she said. (It was just after 2 pm at the time.) ‘Okay, so certainly more than 20?’ Handel followed up. ‘I believe so,’ Nielsen replied. There are in fact 48 legal ports of entry across the border. Nielsen also had a hard time explaining why the Trump administration is threatening to shut down the government unless Congress forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for a border wall that Trump spent much of 2015 and ’16 vowing Mexico would pay for. ‘From Congress, I would ask for wall — we need wall,’ she said at one point.”

Mattis Quits, Foreign Policy In Chaos

Defense Secretary Mattis resigns amid Syria and Afghanistan tension. NPR: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a living Marine Corps legend who made history by securing special permission from Congress to lead the Pentagon, is stepping down after a slow freeze-out by President Trump. Drift between the two men reached a point at which Mattis objected so strongly to the president’s policy choices that he opted to resign rather than go along. The final break appeared to be over major withdrawals of American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, which Trump ordered over the objections of his national security advisers, including Mattis. The president announced via Twitter Thursday evening that Mattis was retiring in February. Shortly after, the Pentagon released a letter of resignation from Mattis to Trump. The resignation followed an abrupt decision by Trump this week to withdraw American troops from Syria, over the objections of many of the president’s military and national security advisers. The news about Mattis was followed by confirmation that Trump is also ordering home roughly half the troops posted in Afghanistan. Mattis wrote in a resignation letter that he felt he could no longer continue to execute Trump’s policies. He cited the importance of what he called America’s ‘unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.’ The outgoing defense secretary cited two such alliances by name: NATO, which has been supporting the war in Afghanistan since not long after the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States; and the coalition of nations that has united to fight the Islamic State.”

Organized Labor’s Signs Of Life

For a dead movement, labor’s been showing a lot of life. American Prospect: “The right promised its anti-union campaigns would yield Republican victories in 2018. But unions have been bouncing back, as the GOP’s defeats make clear. Since their inception, unions have constantly been under attack from right-wing elected officials and the corporations that support them. With sweeping Republican victories at the state level during the Obama years, anti-union forces upped their efforts to end unionism in the U.S. They pushed so-called right-to-work legislation and other anti-union initiatives in multiple states. Those efforts only intensified after they won control of every branch of the federal government in 2016. Despite the anti-union Freedom Foundation plowing tens of millions of dollars into a three-year anti-union effort, only a small number of local unions in Oregon and Washington have experienced a slight uptick in the number of members opting out of the union, but these numbers are so low that the locals are holding steady and won’t see a change in services or activity. Other local unions in those states have actually increased their membership numbers. Following the midterms, all three states have become more solidly Democratic. Each now has a pro-worker, Democratic governor. Democrats also now hold nearly every statewide office and enjoy increased majorities in all three state legislatures, gaining super-majority status in the Oregon Senate as well as the California Senate and Assembly. If I were a Freedom Foundation donor, I’d ask for a refund.America’s labor unions are not out of the woods, but they have turned the corner. Smart unions have created new techniques for communicating with their members; they are strengthening their workplace organizations, developing growth strategies, organizing in communities of color, and supporting new forms of worker organization. That’s why reports of the labor movement’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

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