WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday attempted to move ahead with planning for a State of the Union speech to the U.S. Congress on Jan. 29 despite pressure from Democrats to delay it due to the government shutdown, as his immigration proposal suffered a blow from the U.S. Supreme Court.
No clear way to end the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, was evident, increasing the anxiety level of 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed with some struggling to make ends meet.
Trump’s proposal on Saturday to relax his immigration policies for young immigrants known as “Dreamers” in exchange for funding for a southern border wall did not appear to be making much headway among Democrats who control the House of Representatives.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on Trump’s plan this week but there were doubts it would pass there. Leaders of the House of Representatives have already rejected it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat, had recommended Trump delay his State of the Union speech, traditionally delivered in the House chamber. She had cited concerns about security for the event with some personnel furloughed during a monthlong shutdown.
But, an administration official said the White House sent a request to move forward with speech planning and requested approval of the House sergeant-at-arms for security officials to do a walk-through of the venue.
The request seemed likely to set up another clash between Trump and Pelosi, days after Trump abruptly refused to let her use a U.S. military plane to go on an overseas trip hours before she was to depart.
A House Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the White House had not responded to Pelosi’s letter requesting a delay in the speech.
On Saturday, Trump proposed ending the government shutdown by fully funding the one-quarter of U.S. agencies that are affected. In return, he would get $5.7 billion toward building a southwestern border wall that Democrats oppose. Trump also is offering to restore temporary protections for the “Dreamer” immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as minors.
In 2017, Trump moved to end the Dreamers’ protections, triggering a court battle.
Democrats promptly rejected Trump’s plan as insufficient, saying they would not trade a temporary restoration of the immigrants’ protections in return for a permanent border wall that they view as ineffective.
Trump may have lost the Dreamer issue as his main negotiating point on Tuesday when the Supreme Court refused, at least during this term, to consider an administration appeal of lower court rulings allowing continued temporary protections for the immigrant youths.
Instead, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 lives on with or without approval by Congress.
Before the Supreme Court’s announcement, U.S. lawmakers were poised this week to take up competing remedies for ending the partial government shutdown, which has interrupted scores of vital federal services.
House Democrats also had legislation that would end the partial shutdown of agencies including the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor and Interior.
While their legislation would contain new border security money, there would be nothing for a wall.
Once the government reopens, Democrats said, they would negotiate with Trump on further border security ideas.
“We were optimistic that he might be open up government so we could have this discussion,” Pelosi told reporters in comments carried by CNN. “But then we heard what the particulars were in it and it was a non-starter, unfortunately.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, welcomed any effort by the Republican-led Senate to debate and vote on legislation to reopen the government following that chamber’s monthlong abstention.
“This gets us started,” Clyburn told MSNBC in an interview.
There were no guarantees that votes by Congress this week actually would break the impasse, as Trump held firm on his $5.7 billion demand and Democrats said they would not talk about that until the government reopens.
Many federal employees and contractors were turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support as the shutdown entered its second month. Others began seeking new jobs.
U.S. airport security officer absences rose to a record high over the weekend with some airports experiencing longer wait times and a least one major East Coast airport closing one security checkpoint.
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