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Federal Workers Protest Government Shutdown

Angry furloughed federal workers protest shutdown at the White House, around the country. NBC: "'I have rent to pay,' a demonstrator said. 'I have bills I need to pay. I want to go to work.' Hundreds of furloughed government workers and contractors descended on the White House on Thursday to plead to be allowed to return to work. Holding signs such as "Stop the war on workers" and "We want work, not walls," the protesters assembled in the bitter cold outside of AFL-CIO union headquarters before making their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President Donald Trump wasn't at the White House, but many of the protesters blamed him for the shutdown, which has now stretched in to its 20th day with no end in sight. Congress and the president have been locked in a stalemate over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a border wall that he'd said Mexico would pay for."

Oil Drillers Take Advantage Of Shutdown

Oil drillers, nature lovers get access to public lands despite shutdown. WaPo: "Food is going uninspected by regulators. Time-sensitive data is going uncollected by scientists. And other federal workers are going without pay while doing critical work manning airport terminals and border crossings. While the partial government shutdown’s effects reverberate throughout the federal bureaucracy, the Trump administration is actively working to ease the impact on wilderness lovers and oil drillers alike. Officials at the Interior Department have made a conscious effort to pursue two priorities President Trump has emphasized in his time in office — energy exploration and access to public lands — during the shutdown, according to a top department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk frankly. When discussing what is most critical during the shutdown, 'we have looked first to executive orders, those things the president has made a point of giving us guidance and direction on, and secretarial orders,' the official said."

FBI Warns Shutdown Threatens National Security

Shutdown threatens national security, FBI agents group warns. WaPo: "A group representing FBI agents warned Thursday that the partial government shutdown is threatening national security as thousands of federal law enforcement professionals, working without pay, grow anxious that personal financial hardships may jeopardize their security clearances and as furloughs of their support staffs slow investigations. The shutdown is the result of President Trump’s insistence that more miles of border wall be built in the interest of national security — to keep migrants and drugs from entering illegally — and Democrats’ refusal to go along with his demands for $5.7 billion in wall-construction funds. With the shutdown well into its third week, groups representing government employees ranging from those who patrol borders and guard courthouses to those who make undercover drug buys have expressed alarm that the political drama has reduced them to bargaining chips while they continue doing dangerous jobs that keep Americans safe. 'It’s uncharted territory, as this shutdown is going to be the longest in history,' said Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association. 'For special agents, financial security is national security.'"

Trump Wants To Build Wall With FL, PR Disaster Recovery Funds

Border wall funds could be diverted from a pool meant for Puerto Rico, Texas and other areas hit by disasters. CNN: "The Trump administration is actively examining using billions of dollars in unspent Defense Department disaster recovery and military construction funds for the construction of a border wall in the event the President declares a national emergency, according to a US official.

Congress appropriated $14 billion in supplemental funds to repair infrastructure in areas of the country hardest hit by disasters including hurricanes, like Hurricane Maria which slammed Puerto Rico in 2017 and resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. In anticipation of a national emergency declaration, the official tells CNN that the Pentagon was asked to provide lists of unspent funds including those earmarked for civil works projects that are part of disaster recovery in Puerto Rico, Texas, California, Florida, and elsewhere. The official said the funds were only recently received. There is more than $13 billion not yet physically spent on the infrastructure repair projects, but that have been promised to these communities. For instance, more than $2 billion planned for projects in Puerto Rico has not yet been spent. More than $4.5 billion for projects in Texas, including those related to 2017's Hurricane Harvey, has also not been spent. Trump was briefed Thursday on a proposal to use $5 billion for portions of the wall based on priorities identified by the Department of Homeland Security, the official said. Under a current proposal, a 30-foot high steel slat wall -- the so-called bollard wall -- would be put up across 315 miles of federal lands over 18 months. As the government shutdown continues with no deal between the White House and congressional Democrats in sight, President Trump inched closer to declaring a national emergency to approval to begin construction of the border wall."

Dems Bristle At Ocasio-Cortez Demands

Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez. Politico: "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making enemies in the House Democratic Caucus — and some of its members are mounting an operation to bring the anti-establishment, democratic socialist with 2.2 million Twitter followers into the fold. The effort, described by nearly 20 lawmakers and aides, is part carrot, part stick: Some lawmakers with ties to Ocasio-Cortez are hoping to coax her into using her star power to unite Democrats and turn her fire on Republicans. Others simultaneously warn Ocasio-Cortez is destined for a lonely, ineffectual career in Congress if she continues to treat her own party as the enemy. 'I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,' said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). 'We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.' It’s an open question whether Ocasio-Cortez can be checked. She’s barely been in Congress a week and is better known than almost any other House member other than Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis. A media throng follows her every move, and she can command a national audience practically at will. None of that came playing by the usual rules: Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez’s willingness to take on her party establishment with unconventional guerrilla tactics is what got her here. It’s earned her icon status on the progressive left, it’s where the 29-year-old freshman derives her power — and, by every indication, it’s how she thinks she can pull the Democratic Party in her direction."

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