Judging by the Women’s Marches – 280 of them around the country that drew 2 million activists on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom, health care, workers rights, DACA, climate, gun control – the Democrats were headed for a rout in 2018.
Now, pundits are questioning whether the government shutdown – and then the capitulation by Democrats – will jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate and even the House.
And sure enough, the Republicans have proved yet again they are so much better at message manipulation – the signature talent of every autocracy.
It is a curious thing because the 2013 government shutdown, forced by Republicans who held Obamacare hostage and the many instances of Republicans coming to the brink of endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening the debt ceiling, nonetheless won victories in the 2014 midterms, even taking over the Senate.
But it is different for Republicans who want to tear down government, and Democrats, who actually believe that government can be and should be a force for good.
But what did the Republicans actually win besides the message game? A few days reprieve? When instead the government shutdown over a failure to follow through on the deal to reauthorize DACA so clearly demonstrated the dysfunction, dishonesty, bad faith and sheer cruelty of Republican domination?
And is it wise for Trump to crow that Schumer “caved,” for Pence to go to the Middle East and lambast the Democrats as enemies of our soldiers, for the OMB Director Mike Mulvaney to mimic the phrase being hyped by Russian bots, #SchumerShutdown, and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to show glee that Schumer is “feeling the heat from the left, with #SchumerSellout trending on social media and Democrats who supported reopening the government are being branded as traitors”?
And how cynical is it for Trump to issue a reelection campaign ad blaming Democrats in advance if anyone is murdered by an illegal immigrant, yet taking no responsibility at all for 33,000 gun deaths a year (a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. 10 kids and teens are killed each month in unintentional shootings) and the ease with which terrorists can buy guns because of Republicans’ refusal to adopt reasonable gun control measures?
After all, this is yet another temporary spending measure, which Democrats and some Republicans have decried as no way to run a $4 trillion government since the military, municipalities and agencies can’t do long-range planning or contracts, and we will be right back here on Feb. 8. Fool me once….
Schumer and the Democrats really had no choice but to withhold the votes needed for cloture (the filibuster) which triggered the shutdown, and no choice in coming to this temporary arrangement to reopen government.
Let’s be reminded though: it’s not Democrats who caused the shutdown – five Republicans voted against the CR while five Democrats voted with the Republicans (by modern standards, that’s called “bipartisan”).
Indeed, Trump was rooting for a government shutdown. “The country needs a good shutdown” he said months ago, and referred to this shutdown as “a nice present” –because he believed Democrats would be blamed and weakened and (cherry on the cake) hoped it would get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to trigger the “nuclear option” and end the 60-vote threshold for cloture (the filibuster) so that Republicans could rule without any Democratic input whatsoever.
But for the entire first year of the Trump nightmare when Republicans were in full control of all the levers of government, they chose to rule as if a monarchy, shutting out Democrats entirely, and manipulating votes so that they only needed 50 instead of 60 – on several occasions, needing the Vice President’s vote to get to 51 to pass legislation opposed by large majorities of Americans. The only mechanism for Democrats to have any say whatsoever, and get CHIP and DACA reauthorized was to withhold their votes on the short-term spending bill.
For decades, now (when Democrats are in the White House), “populists” have been decrying the dysfunction in Washington, looking to demagogic characters from outside Washington (they are only “outside” until they are “inside”) to break the logjam and get things done. That’s what many Trump voters said they liked about Trump. They fell for his con: he isn’t disruptive, he’s destructively dysfunctional.
But look to the source of the dysfunction: it goes back to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America” ( “Contract on America” is more apt) – 1994 was the first time the Republicans used a shutdown as extortion. And it goes back to the Hastert Rule, named for the pedophile who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House, that bars the Republicans from passing any legislation that is not supported by the majority of Republicans, rather than the majority of the House or the American people, a tough thing to do with the Tea Party fringe and now the Trumpers.
It is because of the Hastert Rule that we do not have affordable health care, sensible gun violence prevention, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, environmental protection – all supported by huge majorities of Americans – and a tax code and federal budget that help uplift people rather than steer this country to unsustainable income inequality that is so dangerous for a democracy.
Add to that the end of earmarks – championed by none other than Senator John McCain who felt they were the source of corruption in Congress – and you have no bargaining chips whatsoever to forge a compromise. (Trump wants to bring back earmarks, so he can turn a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into a political slush fund.)
But Democrats – or rather the extreme left wing championed by Bernie Sanders – seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and instead of cheering Schumer for getting 12 Republican Senators to pledge to take up legislation to protect DACA recipients before Feb. 8, they blasted him for capitulating.
Really, what was Schumer supposed to do? Republicans were weaponizing the government shutdown, rather than being embarrassed that Trump, The Greatest Dealmaker in the History of the World, was shown to be an emperor with no clothes (he fidgeted while the capital burned) with no actual grasp of policy or long-term impacts so that he could be swayed and steered by the most virulent, anti-immigrant advisers (Steven Miller and John Kelly), and the Republicans being shown as being incapable of governing on behalf of the people instead of just their donors (the 1%).
Now it is likely that no matter how the Senate is reminded they are supposed to be an institution based on compromise and rational deliberation – and that Congress should realize it doesn’t have to wait for Trump at all, but pass reasonable legislation on its own – my prediction is that Speaker Paul Ryan in the House will kill any DACA legislation or any immigration legislation as he did in 2013, tabling Comprehensive Immigration Reform that passed the Senate by a significant majority.
Or that Steve King, Tom Cotton, Steve Miller and John Kelly will come up with something so draconian – legalizing the Gestapo-like roundup and deportations of 11 million undocumented immigrants, throwing out green card holders, shutting borders to refugees and severely curtailing legal immigration for anyone but white people with money to invest in Trump properties – that Democrats won’t be able to vote for it. Ha ha, the irony.
But my money is on the Women’s Movement – no longer a march, but ongoing activism that will result in a major voter registration drive, record number of women running for elected office (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterms. #PowertothePolls.
[Note: In an unprecedented action, the White House originally sent out a transcript in which Donald Trump’s statement, in which he seemed to agree with Senator Feinstein on passing a “clean DACA” was modified. When the change was discovered, the White House sent out a corrected transcript.]
Donald Trump may think that his bipartisan meeting on resolving the DACA issue went swimmingly, but it is not at all clear that the Republicans and Democrats can come together on a clean DACA fix, with or without the “security” elements (which Trump understands to mean a wall but Congress seems to acknowledge means a range of solutions) by March 5th, the date that Trump himself set as the expiration of protections for Dreamers, much less by January 19th, the date when government could shut down if the budget resolution is not adopted.
[Adding to the drama, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction late Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to restart the DACA program because the way it was ended “arbitrarily: and “capriciously” and questioned the contention that Obama did not have the authority to implement it to begin with.]
Still, the to-and-fro was eerily civil – probably because the worst hard-liners were left off the guest-list and the Congressmembers in the room were for the most part were veterans of years of negotiating immigration reform.
There was no discussion of making legal immigration actually work – having enough immigration judges to hear applications, giving parents of legal American children a means toward a legal status.
But in the end, Trump said he would sign whatever Congress came up with – a clear display that he does not actually care or have a grasp of policy. He contradicted himself numerous times, and went back-and-forth seeming to agree with whoever was speaking. He even seemed to moderate his concept of what a “wall” – “a great, beautiful wall” – would be, appearing to agree with Democrats that “wall” was a metaphor for border security, not one contiguous structure like the Great Wall of China, but fencing, mountains, rivers. But he insisted he could build it for less money and ahead of schedule than what is being proposed ($18 Billion is requested; estimates go as high as $45 billion), like Wolman ice rink in Central Park. No different than that. Indeed, throughout, Trump kept suggesting that it was a “simple” matter to solve immigration.
It should be – 86 percent of Americans favor a fix for DACA, and the vast majority support immigration reform. Yet just a few days after Trump appeared to come to agreement with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on DACA, for which Trump received rare praise, he hardened his line because of the reaction of the hardliners who are his base. There was universal wonder whether that would happen again.
And it is really interesting that the very day this civilized discussion of a “bill of love”, as Trump termed a DACA fix, was taking place, the Trump Administration announced it was kicking out some 200,000 Salvadorans, along with hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans, who had come here after some disaster as much as 20 years ago, who have children who are American citizens.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Trump’s tone was calm, even conciliatory – politely calling on the Senators and Representatives, not insulting Democrats and especially Democratic women – even urging the sides to come together, go out to dinner, bury the hatchets – a clear effort to counter the image that emerges from Michael Wolff’s inflammatory “Fire and Fury”. Trump only veered off topic a few times – notably, in extolling the virtues of bringing back earmarks as the best tool for forging (buying) compromise (whereas now, there is no incentive), and the need to build up the military.
The exchanges are rather extraordinary – most notably because the press was not thrown out after the photo op, but were allowed to listen in for 55 minutes.
Most astonishing was the comment by Senator Charles Grassley that he would support a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. (A bill that had all the elements currently being discussed was passed 68-32 in the Senate in 2013, only to be tabled and effectively killed in the Republican-controlled House, leading President Obama to adopt DACA provision rather than have no action at all. That sparked the controversy that Obama trespassed into territory that belonged to Congress, even though Congress had abdicated its role. But there is no such criticism of Trump who through executive orders and administrative policy is defying the Affordable Care Act in an effort to sabotage Obamacare into oblivion.)
The climax to the bipartisan meeting – considered extraordinary for being bipartisan after an entire year of Republicans acting on their own, deliberately excluding Democrats on significant issues including health care and tax reform – was Trump’s reply to what sounded like a plea from Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been working on immigration for a decade, “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” POTUS said. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everyone, for being here. I’m thrilled to be with a distinguished group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. We have something in common, we’d like to see this get done, and you know what this means.
We are here today to advance bipartisan immigration reform that serves the needs of the American families, workers, and taxpayers. It’s DACA. We’ve been talking about DACA for a long time. I’ve been hearing about it for years, long before I decided to go into this particular line of work. And maybe we can do something.
We have a lot of good people in this room. A lot of people that have a great spirit for taking care of the people we represent — we all represent. For that reason, any legislation on DACA, we feel — at least a strong part of this group feels — has to accomplish three vital goals.
And Chairman Goodlatte will be submitting a bill over the next two to three days that will cover many of the things. And, obviously, that will — if it gets passed, it will go to the Senate and we can negotiate and we’ll see how it turns out. But I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should bea bill of love, and we can do that.
But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace and a lot of people are coming in that we can’t have. We’ve greatly stiffened, as you know, and fewer people are trying to come in.
But we have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country.
So, in order to secure it, we need a wall. We need closing enforcement — we have to close enforcement loopholes. Give immigration officers — and these are tremendous people, the border security agents, the ICE agents — we have to give them the equipment they need, we have to close loopholes, and this really does include a very strong amount of different things for border security.
I think everybody in the room would agree to that. I think that we — it’s a question of the amounts. But I think everyone agrees we have to have border security. I don’t think there would be anybody that says “no.”
Second, it has to be a bill to end chain migration. Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one, and often it doesn’t work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right. And I think a lot of people in the room — and I’m not sure I can speak for everybody, but a lot of the people in this room want to see chain migration ended.
And we have a recent case along the West Side Highway, having to do with chain migration, where a man ran over — killed eight people and many people injured badly. Loss of arms, loss of legs. Horrible thing happened, and then you look at the chain and all of the people that came in because of him. Terrible situation.
[False: Had nothing to do with chain migration]
And the other is — cancel the lottery program. They call it “visa lottery,” I just call it “lottery.” But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They’re not giving you their best names; common sense means they’re not giving you their best names. They’re giving you people that they don’t want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand — where they put the hand in a bowl — they’re probably — what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst.
[False. Not how visa lottery works. People in visa lottery are vetted.]
But they put people that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people. And again, they’re going back to that same person who came in through the lottery program. They went — they visited his neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood said, “oh my God, we suffered with this man — the rudeness, the horrible way he treated us right from the beginning.” So we don’t want the lottery system or the visa lottery system. We want it ended.
So those three things are paramount. These are measures that will make our community safer and more prosperous. These reforms are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. They’re from every standpoint, from every poll, and they’re being requested by law enforcement officers.
I had the big meeting with ICE last week; I had a big meeting with the Border Patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example, on the wall, they say, “sir, we desperately need the wall.”
And we don’t need a 2,000-mile wall. We don’t need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion. We also — as you know, it was passed in 2006 — a essentially similar thing, which — a fence, a very substantial fence was passed. But, unfortunately, I don’t know, they never got it done. But they need it.
So I’m appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before party, and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let’s see if we can get something done. I really think that we have a chance to do it. I think it’s very important. You’re talking about 800,000 people — and we’re talking about lots of other people are also affected, including people that live in our country. That’s from the security standpoint.
So maybe the press can stay for a little while and a couple of folks can make statements and I don’t mind the statements. We want to have this as a very open forum. I will say, though, that I really do believe Democratic and Republican — the people sitting around this table — want to get something done in good faith. And I think we’re on our way to do it.
This was an idea I had last week. I was sitting with some of our great Republican senators and we all agreed on everything. It was a great meeting. Right? David, right? We had a great meeting — Tom. It was perfect.
Then I said, “yeah, but we’d like to get some Democrats. Well, what do they say?” And I say, “let’s have the same meeting, but let’s add the Democrats.” And that’s what we’ve done. And I think we’re going to come up with an answer. I hope we’re going to come up with an answer for DACA, and then we go further than that later on down the road.
Dick, perhaps you’d like to say a few words?
SENATOR DURBIN: Thanks, Mr. President, for inviting us. We’re all honored to be a part of this conversation.
September the 5th, you challenged us. You challenged Congress. You said we’re going to end DACA, not replace it. As of today, we have not done that. We face a deadline of March 5th, which you created with your elimination of DACA, and we know that, in the meantime, there have been efforts underway by Senator Graham and I.
We sat down with a bipartisan group of senators. We have worked long and hard, many hours have been put into it. And we feel that we can put together a combination for the future of DACA as well as border security, and that there are elements you’re going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas.
Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that’s felt by many of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of these young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, a thousand a day will lose DACA protection. Nine hundred of them are members of the U.S. military. Twenty thousand of them are schoolteachers. In my state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can’t apply for a residency if they lose their DACA status.
So lives are hanging in the balance of our getting the job done. We’ve got the time to do it. In a matter of days — literally of days — we can come together and reach an agreement. And when that happens, I think good things will happen in other places. And we’ll see some progress in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that, Dick. I very much agree with that. Tom, would you like to say something? Tom Cotton.
SENATOR COTTON: Thank you for inviting us all here and I’m glad to be here with Democrats and with House members as well. You know, I think, on this issue, there’s a lack of trust and has been, for many years, a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats; a lack of trust among Republicans; most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering a solution for many, many years about some of these problems.
And I hope that this meeting can be the beginning of building trust between our parties, between the chambers, because I know, for fact, all the Republicans around the table are committed to finding a solution, and I believe all the Democrats are as well.
So I think this is a good first step in building the trust we need for a good bill, Mr. President, that will achieve the objectives that you stated: providing legal protection for the DACA population, while also securing our border and ending chain migration and the diversity lottery.
Thank you for the invitation.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us down here. I agree with Tom Cotton that the American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they’re frustrated with us is because we continue to couple things on which we have large agreement with things in which we do not agree. This is a perfect example of that.
Eighty-six percent of the American people in the most recent poll are for ensuring, as you have said, not providing for DACA-protected kids to go to a place that they don’t know, they didn’t grow up in, and it’s not their home. They’re Americans. They don’t have a piece of paper that says they’re Americans, but they’re Americans.
And it seems to me, Mr. President, if we’re going to move ahead in a constructive way, that we take that on which we agree — pass it. The American public will be pleased with all of us if we do that. Just as, in September, you recall, we did the extension of the CR. No drama. We were all for it. You and the four leaders met, we came to an agreement, and we passed that CR.
In my view, we can pass the protection in the — well, I understand your position is procedurally it was not done correctly. You then, as Dick has said, challenged us — pass it correctly.
If it’s put on the floor, Mr. President, I believe we will have the overwhelming majority in both the House — and Senator Graham thinks that we’ll have a substantial majority in the United States Senate as well. That, I think, is the first step, Tom, to creating some degree of confidence.
Democrats are for security at the borders; I want to state that emphatically. There is not a Democrat that is not for having secure borders.
There are obviously differences however, Mr. President, on how you effect that. You just indicated that yourself. And you indicated this would be a first step, and then we continue to talk as we’re talking today about how we best secure the border. There are differences of opinion within your party and within in our party.
So I would urge that we move forward on protecting the DACA-protected individuals — young people, young adults, as you pointed out in one of your statements — who are productive parts of our community — that we protect them and get that done. And then, because I think everybody around the table, as you pointed out, is for security — and then the issue is going to be how do we best effect that border security.
So I would urge us to move, as Senator Durbin has urged us to move, on the DACA students. As a matter of fact, the Speaker, I think today, but maybe yesterday, said, we need to solve the DACA issue, and we need to solve it in a way that is permanent, not temporary. And I agree with him on that issue.
THE PRESIDENT: And, interestingly, when you say that, President Obama, when he signed the executive order, actually said he doesn’t have the right to do this. And so you do have to go through Congress, and you do have to make it permanent, whether he does, whether he doesn’t — let’s assume he doesn’t, he said it — and that was a temporary stopgap, I don’t think we want that. I think we want to have a permanent solution to this. And I think everybody in this room feels that way very strongly.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: What happened, Mr. President, I think, is that the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, as you know. We did not consider it in the House, so we didn’t reach those issues.
Very frankly, on border security, Mr. McCaul, the Chairman of the committee, reported out a unanimous security solution, which we then included in the bill that we filed on comprehensive immigration reform. So I think we can reach agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I also think that, after we do DACA — and I really believe we should be able to be successful — I really think we should look in terms of your permanent solution and to the whole situation with immigration. I think a lot of people in this room would agree to that also, but we’ll do it in steps. And most people agree with that, I think, that we’ll do the steps. Even you say, ‘let’s do this, and then we go phase two.’
Kevin, what would you like to say?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Well, first, I want to thank you for bringing everybody together. You got the Senate, you got the House, you got both parties. And I like the exchange of ideas, and I think everybody has a point here.
The one thing I don’t want to have happen here is what I saw in the past. There were four bills that were passed on border security years ago that never got finished. There were immigration bills passed that — we’re right back at the table with the same problem. Let’s make a commitment to each one, and, most importantly, to the American people, that, when we get done and come to an agreement, that we’re not back at this problem three, four years from now.
That’s why — yes, we’ve got to do DACA, and I agree with you 100 percent — but if we do not do something with the security, if we do not do something with the chain migration, we are fooling each other that we solved the problem. You know how difficult this issue is. So let’s collectively — we’re here at the table together. I’ll be the first one to tell you, we’re all going to have to give a little, and I’ll be the first one willing to.
But let’s solve the problem — but let’s not tell the American public at the end that it’s solved when it’s not.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think a good starting point would be Bob Goodlatte, who has done a bill, and I understand you’re ready to submit it. And you’re going to take that and you’ll submit it and they’ll negotiate it in Congress or the House. And then it goes to the Senate, and they’ll negotiate — both Republican and Democrat. But it could be a good way of starting.
Now, if anyone has an idea different from that — but, I think, starting in the House. Starting in the House — Mike, you good? You’re ready. I think you’re ready to go.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: We are, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I would like to add the words “merit” into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia.So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you.
But I think merit-based should be absolutely added to any bill, even if it has to do with DACA.That would be added to the things I said. I think it would be popular. I can tell you, the American public very much wants that.
But, Bob, where are you with the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: So, tomorrow, Chairman McCaul and Congresswoman McSally and Congressman Labrador — we’re the chairmen of the two committees and the chairmen of the two subcommittees — are going to introduce a bill that addresses the DACA concerns.
And let me thank you, Mr. President, both — I was an immigration lawyer before I was elected to Congress. I want to thank you both for campaigning on securing our borders and the interior of our country, but also on addressing DACA in a way that makes sense. Don’t do it ad hoc; do it through the congressional process. So you’ve challenged us, and we should step up to that challenge. And we’re going to do it in a bipartisan fashion, but we have to put our best foot forward.
And we’re going to do that with this legislation. It’s going to address DACA in a permanent way, not a temporary short-term thing. We’re going to address the border enforcement and security and the wall. We’re going to address — in Mr. McCaul’s bill, we’re going to address interior enforcement, but not everything that the administration had on its list.
We’re going to address chain migration. We’re going to end the visa lottery program. We’re going to address sanctuary cities and Kate’s Law.
We think it is a good bill that will both address the two things our Speaker told us right after you made your decision, which is, we have to address the problem we have with the DACA kids being in limbo, as Dick Dubin described it, and I agree with that. But we also have to make sure this does not happen again.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Dick, you and the Democrats are going to have a lot of things that they’re not going to agree — you’re going to talk to us about it. I just felt that this is something that was long overdue. You’d have a meeting and you’d say, this is what we want. We’d have a meeting — and this has been going on for years. And I just — you know, at a certain point, maybe I’ll just lock the doors and I won’t let anybody out — (laughter) — until they come and agree.
Michael, do you have something to say about the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Yes, I’ve been in Congress for seven terms. I’ve been trying to get this border secure for seven terms in Congress. I think this is a bipartisan issue. I think DACA is a bipartisan issue.
We have an opportunity, I think, before us to get this done for the American people. When it comes to chain migration and the lottery system, we saw two recent terror attacks in New York that were the result of this, I think, failed immigration policy. We’d like to see that fixed for the American people and along with, as Bob talked about, sanctuary cities.
Now, you and I talked about this extensively. So we think our bill, our House bill would be a good starting ground for this negotiation. And I, too, want to commend you for bringing everybody together.
I think what we don’t want to see happen is for the conditions for DACA to occur again. We want to get security done so we don’t have to deal with this problem five more years down the road.
So thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are so many points of agreement, and a lot of it is common sense. And I really think we’re going to come out very well.
David Perdue, do you have something to say?
REPRESENTATIVE PERDUE: Well, yeah, my observation is that three times in the last eleven years, well-intentioned people, some of whom are in this room, attempted to do what we’re starting to try to do today, and we failed. And I think the difference is, is their mission creep ended up in an effort that became too comprehensive.
And so, today, my encouragement for all of us is to do what Dick has been trying to do and talks about repeatedly, and that is to limit the scope of this. And I like the idea that both sides have pressure to solve the DACA issue. But I think the bigger issue here is not just the DACA issue, but what we can do to start the path to the steps that solve this immigration problem. For several reasons — there are social issues; there are political issues; there are economic issues about our workforce that have to be addressed.
But limiting this to the legal immigration side and combining the balance between various solutions on DACA; DREAMers, if it gets in the conversation; as well border security and chain migration, I think therein lies the balance of a good deal that can be done.
And I don’t think — I agree with Dick. I don’t think it’s going to take long to get it done if we just lock ourselves in a room and make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re right. I think it could be done very quickly.
Would anybody have anything to say prior to the press leaving?
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Mr. President, I just have one comment.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Senator Durbin mentioned that lives are hanging in the balance. As we come up on the January 19th deadline, the lives that are hanging in the balance are those of our military that are needing the equipment and the funding and everything they need in order to keep us safe, and we should not playing politics on this issue to stop our military from getting the funding that they need.
I think we have the right people in the room to solve this issue. The deadline is March 5th. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together on this. But those who need us right now before the January 19 deadline is our military. And let’s not play politics with that. Let’s give them what they need to keep us safe.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need our military — I can’t say more than ever before. We had wars. Right, Lindsey? We had a lot of other areas and times. But we need our military desperately. Our military has been very depleted. We’re rebuilding, and we’re building it up quickly, and we’re negotiating much better deals with your purveyors and with your manufacturers and with your equipment-makers — much better than it was before.
I looked at boats that started off at $1.5 billion, and they’re up to $18 billion, and they’re still not finished. In this case, a particular aircraft carrier. I think it’s outrageous. So we’re very much agreeing with you on that one.
Would anybody like to say? Yes, Steny, go ahead.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: I want to follow up on that. There are no Democrats that don’t want to make sure that the military is funded properly. And over the last four years, we had an agreement between Mr. Ryan and Senator Murray — Speaker Ryan and — that we understand that our military is critically important. But we also understand that our domestic issues, whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s environment, whether it’s transportation and infrastructure, they’re important, as well.
And both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget are hurt when you have a CR, because they cannot blink and they cannot get contracts if they don’t have any money to do so. So that, very frankly, I think Ms. McSally is correct. But what we ought to have done over the last six months — particularly when we did the September and we gave 90 days — is to reach some agreement on what the caps are going to be. The Murray-Ryan agreements were parity. We believe that’s very important.
So we can get to where we should get and want to get there, but we ought to have an agreement based upon what the last —
THE PRESIDENT: But, Steny, we do have to take politics out of the military. We need that military. All the other things we talk about, we’re not going to be here if we don’t have the right military. And we need our military, and we need it stronger than ever before, and we’re ready to do it. But we have to take politics out of the military.
One thing that I think we can really get along with on a bipartisan basis — and maybe I’m stronger on this than a lot of the people on the Republican side, but I will tell you, we have great support from the Republicans — is infrastructure. I think we can do a great infrastructure bill. I think we’re going to have a lot of support from both sides, and I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible.
[Trump doesn’t seem to get it: social spending – health care, education – are equally important to military spending.]
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, I, too, want to thank you for getting us together. You made the point last week when Republicans were meeting with you that, why are we continuing to have these meetings just among ourselves when what we need to do to get to a solution is to meet, as we are today, as you insisted, on bipartisan basis.
[The only reason there is any interest at all in “bipartisan” solution – to DACA, immigration, infrastructure, the budget – is because they need 60 votes, not 51, to get measures through the Senate, unless McConnell does what Trump wants and gets rid of the filibuster.]
But part of my job is to count votes in the Senate. And as you know when you hosted us, the leadership, at Camp David this weekend, I believe both the Speaker and Majority Leader McConnell made crystal clear that they would not proceed with a bill on the floor of the Senate or the House unless it had your support, unless you would sign it.
So that’s, I think, the picture we need to be looking through — the lens we need to be looking through is not only what could we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law. Because we all want to get to a solution here, and we realize the clock is ticking.
But I think that for me frames the issue about as well as I can.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very well said. One of the reasons I’m here, Chuck, so importantly, is exactly that. I mean, normally you wouldn’t have a President coming to this meeting. Normally, frankly, you’d have Democrats, Republicans, and maybe nothing would get done.
Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. Because this system — (laughter) —
PARTICIPANT: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: This system — (laughter) — but you should do it, and I’m there with you, because this system really lends itself to not getting along. It lends itself to hostility and anger, and they hate the Republicans. And they hate the Democrats. And in the old days of earmarks, you can say what you want about certain Presidents and others, where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system, and maybe we should think about it.
[This is true: earmarks allow for horse-trading, for a President like Johnson, but not Obama who did not have the benefit of earmarks, to make deals. Without it, politicians have no incentive to “compromise” and every incentive to revert to partisan fringes because all they have to fear is being primaried. Trump wants to return to using earmarks, so he can quite literally buy votes with taxpayer money. That is what is behind the infrastructure plan – it turn the US Treasury into a political slush fund to benefit Trump and the Republicans.]
And we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together. Because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.
Now, I think we’re going to get this done — DACA. I think we’re going to get — I hope we’re going to get infrastructure done in the same way.
But I think you should look at a form of earmarks. I see Lindsey nodding very hard “yes.”
SENATOR GRAHAM:Starting with the Port of Charleston. Absolutely. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:A lot of the pros are saying that if you want to get along and if you want to get this country really rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control.
The levels of hatred — and I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking you go back throughout the eight years of Obama and you go before that, the animosity and the hatred between Republicans and Democrats.
I remember when I used to go out in Washington, and I’d see Democrats having dinner with Republicans. And they were best friends, and everybody got along. You don’t see that too much anymore. In all due respect, you really don’t see that. When was the last time you took a Republican out? Why don’t you guys go and have dinner together? (Laughter.)
But you don’t see it. So maybe, and very importantly, totally different from this meeting, because we’re going to get DACA done — I hope we’re going to get DACA done, and we’re going to all try very hard — but maybe you should start bringing back a concept of earmarks. It’s going to bring you together. You’re going to do it honestly. You’re going to get rid of the problems that the other system had — and it did have some problems. But one thing it did is it brought everyone together. And this country has to be brought together. Okay? Thank you.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, at 6:40 p.m., I’m going to go to Menendez’s office, and he’s taking me to dinner. (Laughter.)
And he’s buying.
THE PRESIDENT: Sounds like fun.
SENATOR GRAHAM: He didn’t know that, but he’s buying. We’re going to Morton’s. You’re all welcome to come. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We can usually get bipartisan agreement when the other guy buys. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a very important thing, because our system is designed, right now, that everybody should hate each other. And we can’t have that. You know, we have a great country. We have a country that’s doing very well in many respects. We’re just hitting a new high on the stock market again, and that means jobs. I don’t look at the stocks, I look at the jobs. I look at the 401(k)s, I look at what’s happening, where police come up to me and they say, “Thank you. You’re making me look like a financial genius” — literally — meaning about them. And their wives never thought that was possible, right?
No, the country is doing well in so many ways, but there’s such divisiveness, such division. And I really believe we can solve that. I think this system is a very bad system in terms of getting together. And I’m going to leave it up to you, but I really believe you can do something to bring it together.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Other than going to dinner with Bob — I’ve been doing this for 10 years — I don’t think I’ve seen a better chance to get it done than I do right now, because of you. John’s right — I’m not going to support a deal if you don’t support it. I’ve had my head beat out a bunch; I’m still standing. I’m “Lindsey Grahamnesty,” “Lindsey Gomez” — you name every name you want to give to me, it’s been assigned to me. And I’m still standing.
The people of South Carolina want a result. How can I get a letter? I’ve been for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people because I have no animosity toward them. I don’t want crooks, I don’t want “bad hombres.” I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st century, and I’m willing to be more than fair to the 11 million. I just don’t want to do this every 20 years.
Now, we made a decision, Mr. President, not to do it comprehensively. I think that’s a smart decision but a hard decision. We’ve passed three comprehensive bills out of the Senate with over 55 votes. They go to the House and die, and I’m not being disparaging to my House colleagues, this is tough politics if you’re a Republican House member turning on the radio.
To my Democratic friends, thanks for coming. The Resist Movement hates this guy. They don’t want him to be successful at all. You turn on Fox News, and I can hear the drumbeat coming. Right-wing radio and TV talk show hosts are going to beat the crap out of us because it’s going to be amnesty all over again. I don’t know if the Republican and Democratic Party can define love, but I think what we can do is do what the American people want us to do.
Sixty-two percent of the Trump voters support a pathway to citizenship for the DACA kids if you have strong borders. You have created an opportunity in here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lindsey. You know, it’s very interesting because I do have people that are — just to use a very common term — very far right and very far left. They’re very unhappy about what we’re doing, but I really don’t believe they have to be, because I really think this sells itself. And, you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.
And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will.
I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you wanted to go that final step, I think you should do it. And if you want to study earmarks to bring us all together, so we all get together and do something, I think you should study it.
Chuck, did you have something to say?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: I’d like to talk about the reality of the whole situation and take off from what Cornyn and Graham have said of the necessity of you working with us. And you are doing that by having this meeting and other meetings as well. But we’ve always talked in the United States Senate about the necessity of getting 60 votes. And that’s pretty darn tough.
But if we would write a bill that you don’t like and you veto it, we’re talking about a 67-vote threshold — two-thirds in the United States Senate. So that’s the reality of negotiating in good faith and getting something you can sign.
The second reality is the March 5th date that’s coming up. Because if we don’t do some good-faith negotiation and make progress, and get a bill on the floor of the United States Senate, our leader is going to have to bring up either the House bill or the bill that some of us have introduced in the United States Senate, and we’re going to have a vote on it. And those people that don’t want to vote to legalize DACA kids are going to have to explain why they haven’t wanted to protect the vulnerable people that we’re all here talking about. We’re talking about everything except doing something for the DACA kids.
You know, I would vote for a path to citizenship, which isn’t very easy for me, but I would do it just as an effort. But there are certain things that we got to guarantee that we’re going to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, that’s going to be brought up. I really believe that will be brought up as part of what we’re talking about, at some point. It’s an incentive for people to do a good job, if you want to know the truth. That whole path is an incentive for people — and they’re not all kids. I mean, we’re used to talking about kids. They’re not really kids. You have them 39, 40 years old, in some cases. But it would be an incentive for people to work hard and do a good job. So that could very well be brought up.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: We’re talking about legalizing people here that didn’t break the law because their parents, who broke the law, brought them here. And we ought to be talking about what we can do for the people that had no fault of their own, and get the job done, and not worry about a lot of other things that we’re involved in. And that means that we got to make sure that we tell the American people, when we’re taking this step, that we’re doing something that all the people agree to.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, let me just say, I think Dick and I agree with what Chuck Grassley just said.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to believe. When was the last time that happened? (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We need to take care of these DACA kids, and we all agree on that. Eighty-six percent of the American public agrees on that.
With all due respect, Bob, and Mike, and Lindsey, there are some things that you’re proposing that are going to be very controversial and will be an impediment to agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate those things. You’re going to sit down and you’re going to say, listen, we can’t agree here, we’ll give you half of that, we’re going to — you’re going to negotiate those things.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, comprehensive means comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re not talking about comprehensive. Now we’re talking about —
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: No, we are. We are talking about comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: If you want to go there, it’s okay because you’re not that far away.
SENATOR HOYER: Mr. President, many of the things that are mentioned ought be a part of the negotiations regarding comprehensive immigration reform.
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you want to take it a step further, you may — I’m going to have to rely on you, Dick — but you may complicate it and you may delay DACA somewhat.
SENATOR DURBIN: I don’t want to do that.
SENATOR HOYER: You can’t do that.
SENATOR DURBIN: You said at the outset that we need to phase this. I think the first phase is what Chuck and Steny and I have mentioned, and others as well: We have a deadline looming and a lot of lives hanging. We can agree on some very fundamental and important things together on border security, on chain, on the future of diversity visas. Comprehensive, though, I worked on it for six months with Michael Bennet, and a number of — Bob Menendez, and Schumer, and McCain, and Jeff Flake — and it took us six months to put it together. We don’t have six months for the DACA bill.
PARTICIPANT: We’re not talking about comprehensive immigration.
PARTICIPANT: Take a look at our bill and let’s talk some.
PARTICIPANT: I hear you.
SENATOR DURBIN: You’ve mentioned a number of factors that are going to be controversial, as Steny has mentioned.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate. Dick, you’re going to negotiate. Maybe we will agree and maybe we won’t. I mean, it’s possible we’re not going to agree with you and it’s possible we will, but there should be no reason for us not to get this done.
And, Chuck, I will say, when this group comes back — hopefully with an agreement — this group and others from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I’m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I’m not going to say, “Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.” I’ll be signing it, because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that they’re going to come up with something really good.
Senator, would you like to say something?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: I would. As you know, we tried for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. It was on the floor, there were a number of amendments, it got a lot of attention in the judiciary committee, and then the House didn’t take it up.
I think there needs to be a willingness on both sides. And I think — and I don’t know how you would feel about this, but I’d like to ask the question: What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure? Like we did back — oh, I remember when Kennedy was here and it was really a major, major effort, and it was a great disappointment that it went nowhere.
THE PRESIDENT: I remember that. I have no problem. I think that’s basically what Dick is saying. We’re going to come up with DACA. We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Would you be agreeable to that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I would like — I would like to do that.* Go ahead. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.
[The original transcript, which was modified by the White House to change what Trump actually said, read: THE PRESIDENT: I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.]
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Mr. President, you need to be clear though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here: When we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. We have to have security, as the Secretary would tell you.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But I think that’s what she’s saying.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: What do you think I’m saying?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: I’m thinking you’re saying DACA is not secure. Are you talking about security as well?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Well, I think if we have some meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, that’s really where the security goes. And if we can get the DACA bill, because March is coming and people are losing their status every day —
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But, let’s be honest. Security was voted on just a few years ago, and, no disrespect, there’s people in the room on the other side of the aisle who voted for it. If I recall, Senator Clinton voted for it. So I don’t think that’s comprehensive; I think that’s dealing with DACA at the same time. I think that’s really what the President is making.
It’s kind of like three pillars: DACA, because we’re all in the room want to do it; border security, so we’re not back out here; and chain migration. It’s just three items, and then everything else that’s comprehensive is kind of moved to the side.
So I believe when the (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: And the lottery.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: And the lottery.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think you should add merit. I mean, if you can, add merit-based. (Laughter.) I don’t think — I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?
Dianne, go ahead.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Can I ask a question? Do you really think that there can be agreement on all of that, quickly, to get DACA passed in time? I wanted to ask Mr. McCarthy a question. Do you really think there can be agreement on those three difficult subjects you raised in time to get DACA passed and effective?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Yes, because you have heard from Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, who said they will put the bill onto the floor if the President agrees to it. And us getting to the room, I haven’t seen us be this close and having this discussion in quite a few years — or the whole last four years.
So I think, yes, we can make this happen. We all know it. We’ve done it before. You and I spent a long time — we did probably one of the most difficult things to do in California — water. And I believe we can get there and we can just keep working each day on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon. Okay? We’ll take an hour off and then we’ll start.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done — if it’s done properly — with, you know, security, and everything else —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: That’s the point.
THE PRESIDENT: If it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiation, and I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.
SENATOR PERDUE: Mr. President, we have —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
SENATOR PERDUE: We have to be very clear though.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
SENATOR PERDUE: In my opinion, we’ll be right back here either five years, thirty years, whatever. But this, the chain migration, is so insidious; it is the fundamental flaw in the immigration policy of the United States. If any conversation about DACA is being held without that consideration — I agree with border security as well — but any conversation about that is not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. And if we think we’re going to divide one side versus the other, that’s just not going to happen on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: David, I think chain migration has taken a very big hit over the last six months. People are seeing what’s happening.
People — for instance, the man on the Westside Highway that killed the people and so badly wounded. You know, it’s incredible when they talk about wounded, they don’t say that arms are off, and legs are off, one person lost two legs. You know, nobody talks about it. They said eight died, but they don’t talk about the twelve people that have no legs, no arms, and all of the things. So I’m talking about everybody.
I really believe that when you talk about the subject that we’re all mentioning right now, I think they had — how many people came in? Twenty-two to twenty-four people came in through him. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who ran over eight — many people — eight died; ten to twelve are really badly injured. So I really think that a lot of people are going to agree with us now on that subject. I really don’t see there’s a big —
SENATOR PERDUE: Seventy percent of Americans want the immigration policy to be, the family — the nuclear family and the workers. Seventy percent.
THE PRESIDENT: David, the chain immigration, though, has taken a very big hit in the last year with what’s happening. I mean, you’re looking at these killers — whether you like or not — we’re looking at these killers and then you see, 18 people came in, 22 people came in, 30 people came in, with this one person that just killed a lot of people. I really don’t believe there are a lot of Democrats saying, “We will be supporting chain migration,” anymore.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, should we get the Homeland Security Secretary —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, if you don’t mind. Just on a couple of things on border security. I just want to try to make sure we’re all linking.
The reason that border security is so important to have as part of this discussion is that it doesn’t solve the problem if we can apprehend people but we can’t remove them. So we need the wall system, which is some physical infrastructure as the President described — personnel and technology — but we have to close those legal loopholes, because the effect is that is this incredible pull up from Central America that just continues to exacerbate the problem. So border security has to be part of this or we will be here again in three, four, five years again — maybe, unfortunately, sooner.
The other point I would just make is, the President asked DHS — he asked the men and women of DHS, what do you need to do your job? Congress and the American people have entrusted to you, the security of our country. What is it that you need? The list that we have provided is what we need to do our mission that you asked us to do. It’s not less than, it’s not more than; it is what we need to close those loopholes to be able to protect our country.
So I would just encourage — everyone, much more eloquently than I can, described all the reasons why we all, I think, are committed to helping the DACA population. But to truly solve the problem, it’s got to be in conjunction with border security.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeff.
SENATOR FLAKE: I would just echo what has been said by some here. Those of us who have been through comprehension reform, that was six, seven months of every night negotiating, staff on weekends. And a lot of things we’re talking about on border security and some of the interior things have trade-offs, and we made those during that process. I don’t see how we get there before March 5th.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. So I think that’s why we make it a phase two. We do a phase one, which is DACA and security,and we do phase two, which is comprehensive immigration. And I think we should go right to it, I really do. We do one and we then do the other. But we go right to it.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I think it’s important to thank you for your flexibility and your leadership. And so I think what all of us have to do is have the same willingness to have a little bit of flexibility to get this issue done. And, obviously, I want to do a lot more than DACA. But the urgent thing now, for obvious reasons, are these young men and women who we have to deal with, first and foremost.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: And to Steny’s point, there are two issues which we keep hearing that everybody agrees to, and that is dealing with these individuals on a permanent and real solution, and border security.
So I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that, and I’m hoping that that will then lead us — to Senator Collins’ point, there’s a lot of lack of trust. If we can get real border security and deal with these individuals, if we can get that done, then I think, my gosh, it all opens up to do a lot more things in the future for the Americans.
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: I just want to reemphasize what Secretary Nielsen said. It is so important they understand when you talk about border security, if you apprehend somebody at the border, but then you cannot send them back outside the United States, even though they’re unlawfully present in the United States, you have not solved this problem, because they’re then released into the interior of the country and the problem persists. And that sends a message back to wherever they come from.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, Bob. And you know what? We’re going to negotiate that. I agree, and I think a lot of people agree on both sides.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Thank you, Mr. President. And I agree with my good friend, Mario, in the sense that if we focus on DACA and border security, I think we can address this. Issues of chain migration or the other issues, I think that should be looked at in the second phase.
But again, I say this with all due respect to both Democrats, Republicans — but being from the border, I always get a kick out of people that go down, spend a few hours, and they think they know the border better than Cornyn — or some of us there, because we’ve lived there all our life.
Let me explain this. For example, if you look at the latest DEA — you’re worried about drugs, look at the latest DEA report — more drugs come through the ports of entry than in between ports. But we’re not even talking about ports of entry, number one.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Our bill does.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: No, I know — I’m just saying. I’m saying. (Laughter.) I’m just saying ports — let’s finish this. And some of us have been working this longer than some other folks.
Number one, if you look at the 11 or 12 million undocumented aliens, which is the second phase, 40 percent of them came through visa overstays. So you can put the most beautiful wall out there, it’s not going to stop them there because they’ll either come by plane, boat, or vehicle itself.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: That’s in our bill, too.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yeah, and I know. So the other thing is, the other thing that we had looked at — the wall itself, Mr. President — if you talk to your Border Patrol chief or the former Border Patrol chiefs, I’ve asked them, how much time does a wall buy you? They’ll say a couple minutes or a few seconds. And this is our own Border Patrol chiefs that have said that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: It’s not mine. Mine has made clear the wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: They have not. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to. They say, without the wall, we cannot have border security.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Okay. Let me show you.
THE PRESIDENT: All you have to do is ask Israel. Look what happened with them.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: No, ask Yuma. Ask San Diego. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, without the wall, you can’t have it.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Homeland Appropriations, your chief that was there, and the former chiefs have all said that.
Now, the other thing is —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they didn’t do a very good job.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Well, if you look at — this is where the wall — Mr. President, if you look at where the walls are at right now, this is where the activity is where the walls are at right now.
THE PRESIDENT: We have massive miles of area where people are pouring through. Now, one of the good things, because of our rhetoric or because of the perceived — you know, my perceived attitude — fewer people are trying to come through. That’s a great thing.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And therefore — I mean, our numbers have been fantastic, maybe for all the right reasons.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But let me just finish my thought. I want to ask you that — we’re playing — you saw the game last night. It was a good game last night.
THE PRESIDENT: I did. Very good game.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We’re playing defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. border. We spend over $18 billion a year on the border.
If we think about playing defense on the 20-yard line — if you look at what Mexico has done, they stop thousands of people on the southern border with Guatemala. We ought to be looking at working with them.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we stopped them. We stopped them. You know why? Mexico told me, the President told me, everybody tells me — not as many people are coming through their southern border because they don’t think they can get through our southern border and therefore they don’t come. That’s what happened with Mexico. We did Mexico a tremendous favor.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We actually put appropriations to help them with the southern border.
THE PRESIDENT: The point is — I know, we always give everybody — every other nation gets money except ours.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re always looking for money. We give the money to other nations. That we have to stop.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally, the last point, Mr. President, is instead of playing defense on the one-yard line, if you look — this is your material — we know where the stash houses are at, we know where the hotels are at, we know where they cross the river —
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And we’re going after those.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Why stop — why play defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. —
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we’re going after them like never before. We’re going after the stash houses —
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All I’m saying is, if we focus on DACA, we can work on the other things separately — on sensible border security, listen to the folks that are from the border, and we can work with the —
THE PRESIDENT: And you folks are going to have to — you’re one voice — you folks are going to have to come up with a solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you do, I’m going to sign that solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We have a lot of smart people in this room. Really smart people. We have a lot of people that are good people, big hearts. They want to get it done.
I think almost everybody — I can think of one or two I don’t particularly like, but that’s okay. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Where is he looking?
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Who is he looking at? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m trying to figure that out. Everybody wants a solution. You want it, Henry.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir. I want to work with you on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have a great group of people to sit down and get this done. In fact, when the media leaves, which I think should be probably pretty soon. (Laughter.) But I like — but I will tell you, I like opening it up to the media because I think they’re seeing, more than anything else, that we’re all very much on a similar page. We’re on the same page.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We are. We are.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Henry, I think we can really get something done.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So why don’t we ask the media to leave. We appreciate you being here.
Q Is there any agreement without the wall?
THE PRESIDENT: No, there wouldn’t be. You need it. John, you need the wall. I mean, it’s wonderful — I’d love not to build the wall, but you need the wall.
And I will tell you this, the ICE officers and the Border Patrol agents — I had them just recently on — they say, if you don’t have the wall — you know, in certain areas, obviously, that aren’t protected by nature — if you don’t have the wall, you cannot have security. You just can’t have it. It doesn’t work.
And part of the problem we have is walls and fences that we currently have are in very bad shape. They’re broken. We have to get them fixed or rebuilt.
But, you know, you speak to the agents, and I spoke to all of them. I spoke — I lived with them. They endorsed me for President, which they’ve never done before — the Border Patrol agents and ICE. They both endorsed Trump.And they never did that before. And I have a great relationship with them. They say, sir, without the wall, security doesn’t work; we’re all wasting time.
Now, that doesn’t mean 2,000 miles of wall because you just don’t need that because of nature, because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things. But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall. If we don’t have it, you can never have security. You could never stop that portion of drugs that comes through that area.
Yes, it comes through planes and lots of other ways and ships. But a lot of it comes through the southern border. You can never fix the situation without additional wall. And we have to fix existing wall that we already have.
Q So you would not be for what Senator Feinstein asked you, which would be a clean DACA bill that doesn’t —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think a clean DACA bill, to me, is a DACA bill where we take care of the 800,000 people. They are actually not necessarily young people; everyone talks about young — you know, they could be 40 years old, 41 years old, but they’re also 16 years old.
But I think, to me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them and we also take care of security. That’s very important.
And I think the Democrats want security too. I mean, we started off with Steny saying, we want security also. Everybody wants security. And then we can go to comprehensive later on, and maybe that is a longer subject and a bigger subject, and I think we can get that done too.
But we’ll get it done at a later date.
Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.
SENATOR HIRONO: Mr. President, I’m Senator Hirono from Hawaii.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know.
SENATOR HIRONO: And as the only immigrant serving in the United States Senate right now, I would like nothing better than for us to get to comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’m hearing around the table right now is a commitment to resolving the DACA situation because there is a sense of urgency.
You have put it out there that you want $18 billion for a wall or else there will be no DACA. Is that still your position?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I can build it for less, by the way.
SENATOR HIRONO: But you want that wall?
THE PRESIDENT: I must tell you, I’m looking at these prices. Somebody said $42 billion. This is like the aircraft carrier. It started off at a billion and a half, and it’s now at $18 billion.
No, we can do it for less. We can do a great job. We can do a great wall. But you need the wall. And I’m now getting involved. I like to build under budget, okay? I like to go under-budget, ahead of schedule.
There’s no reason for seven years, also. I heard the other day — please, don’t do that to me. (Laughter.) Seven years to build the wall. We can build the wall in one year, and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about. And any excess funds — and we’ll have a lot of — whether it’s a Wollman Rink or whether it’s any — I build under budget and I build ahead of schedule. There is no reason to ever mention seven years again, please. I heard that and I said — I wanted to come out with a major news conference, Tom, yesterday.
No. It can go up quickly, it can go up effectively, and we can fix a lot of the areas right now that are really satisfactory if we renovate those walls.
SENATOR HIRONO: And can you tell us how many miles of wall you’re contemplating? Whether it’s $17 million or $13 million or whatever is — can you tell us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re doing a study on that right now. But there are large areas where you don’t need a wall because you have a mountain and you have a river — you have a violent river — and you don’t need it. Okay?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Senator, I’m happy to come visit you this week to walk you through the numbers.
Q I’m not the most politically astute person in the world, but it seems to me not much has actually changed here in terms of your position at this particular meeting.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it’s changed. I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my — what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.
Thank you all very much.
Q Think you could beat Oprah, by the way?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. You know I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump — this is before politics — her last week. And she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice. No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it’s phase two. I think comprehensive will be phase two. I think — I really agree with Dick. I think we get the one thing done and then we go into comprehensive the following day. I think it’ll happen.
Thank you all very much. I hope we’ve given you enough material. That should cover you for about two weeks. (Laughter.)
This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.
Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care. 800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.
The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.
Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.
It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.
Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.
This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)
Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.
Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)
You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.
“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.
“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.
The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.
Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.
Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.
The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”
Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.
“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”
But the figures don’t actually add up.
Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.
Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika, Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.
$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.
His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).
Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.
Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.
International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”
Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.
No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.
Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.
$5 billion in cuts to public education
$73 billion in cuts to Social Security
$191 billion in cuts to food stamps
$610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)
“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.
“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.
“We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.
“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.
”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.
Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).
This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.
The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe, “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”
New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.
It is beyond infuriating that Republicans, who every four years call themselves the “Party of Lincoln,” can claim the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and the EPA which were signed when Richard Nixon was president, and that on this, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we all can thank President Theodore Roosevelt, a (Progressive) Republican, for America’s “best idea” – our national park system.
That’s because these are under attack by today’s Republicans – the party of Donald Trump. Today’s Republicans bear as little resemblance to the party of Lincoln or Roosevelt as George Wallace to the Democratic party.
Republicans are so infuriated by the 22 national monuments and preserves Obama has designed during his time in office using his powers under the Antiquities Act (265 million acres of public lands and waters — more than any administration in history), that they have tried to repeal it and take the power to preserve lands from for the use of all Americans, equally, into the hands of greedy developers (a la Donald Trump).
Trump is probably thinking, “Donald J. Trump will be the president who dispatches the $19 trillion national debt – I only need to sell off Yellowstone, and maybe Yosemite,” (no doubt to the cheers of Peter G. Peterson, who is obsessed with the national debt, see www.pgpf.org/.)
As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted in his annual paean to the national parks, fresh from his hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, the most democratic place in America isn’t the voting booth, but the national parks.
“Even in the Great Depression, an impoverished America could afford to work on building paths like the John Muir Trail, yet today we can’t afford to maintain them properly,” Kristof writes. “Our predecessors pretty much invented the idea of national parks and wilderness trails, bequeathing us an inheritance of incalculable wealth. And on our watch, as we mark the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, we’re squandering it.”
Our national parks system are overwhelmingly popular – indeed, the number of annual visits to non-local parks (not even counting if New Yorkers climb the Statue of Liberty), equates to one per person.
According to a study by Linda J. Bilmes and John Loomis published in US News, the national park system is valued at $92 billion a year, but total revenue, including Congressional appropriation comes to a mere $3 billion a year. Meanwhile, Congress has cut its funding for NPS by 15 percent over the last 15 years (after factoring inflation), while its backlog of overdue maintenance projects amounts to $12 billion a year (and rising).
Despite opposition from Republicans – or perhaps because of it – Obama has during his tenure designated more national monuments using his power under the Antiquities Act than any prior president (much as he has had to resort to Executive Orders to get anything else done): Obama not only has saved natural treasures for generations to come, but has used the designations to tell a more complete story of America’s heritage, so that more of our community can feel the same sense of pride: So, in addition to preserving natural settings like Browns Canyon National Monument, New Mexico, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Sand to Snow National Monument, California, Obama designated monuments honoring Black-Americans (Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument, Ohio; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument), Hispanics (Cesar Chavez National Monument ), workers (Pullman National Monument, Illinois), women (Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Washington, DC), and the latest one, LGBT Stonewall National Monument, New York. (See a full list of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, going back to Theodore Roosevelt, who designated the first National Monument, Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, in 1906.www.npca.org/resources/2658-monuments-protected-under-the-antiquities-act.)
“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country – the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one. That’s what makes us the greatest nation on earth. And it’s what we celebrate at Stonewall – for our generation and for all those who come after us,” Obama said at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service and national park system has been under assault by Republicans, who not only have tried to repeal the President’s power under the Antiquities Act, but regularly introduce bills to remove impediments to private/corporate access and use of federal lands.
“This includes three dangerous new bills that would allow millions of acres of national forests to be auctioned off by the states for mining, logging, drilling, road construction and more. This would happen with no regard for current environmental protections, and could cut off access to our shared public lands,” writes The Wilderness Society’s Alan Rowsome, Senior Director, Government Relations for Lands.
Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday, but potential uranium mines and logging of old growth ponderosa pine forest just outside the boundary directly threaten water quality, human health, wildlife connectivity and cultural heritage protected by this most wondrous preserve.Because the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to act on legislation Rep. introduced by Raul Grijalva, the Wilderness Society is calling for Obama to proclaim a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
Republicans have even blocked donations of land: for example, the National Park Service was set to receive 87,500 acres of pristine land in the Maine Woods from a non-profit organization started by the founder of Burt’s Bees, which would be used to designate a new national monument and, eventually, a new national park.
Who is responsible for blocking the acquisition? Believe it or not, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who has led a crusade to overturn the Antiquities Act.
“When he learned that President Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect 704,000 amazing acres as the Basin and Range Monument in Nevada, Representative Bishop called that ‘shameless.’ He even said that the Antiquities Act was ‘evil in the flesh’,” writes The Wilderness Society’s Alan Rowsome. “When he was informed that Basin and Range was home to many Native American artifacts, including cave paintings, he replied ‘Ah, bull crap. That’s not an antiquity’.”
The anti-National Parks furor is bound up with climate denial and a fervent effort to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which is itself wrapped up in a goal of preserving the status quo for the Capitalists who currently control the economy. Of course, clean, renewable energy would be a new capitalist endeavor, creating a new generation of millionaires, but that would displace the current Power Brokers whose wealth is tied to fossil fuels.
But setting aside land does not only mitigate against climate change, the national parks are also victims.
As Obama wrote after personally visiting two national parks: National Parks — spectacular natural treasures that are available to everybody, not just the lucky few — have been called America’s best idea. Under my administration, we’ve protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters — more than any administration in history. I’ve been proud to build on the work of the giants of conservation and environmental protection who came before me, like President Lincoln who first protected the Yosemite Valley in 1864, and President Teddy Roosevelt, who spoke so eloquently about why our strength and future as a nation relied on protecting our precious natural resources.
But there is more we must do to protect our parks and to protect this planet for generations to come. Make no mistake: The biggest challenge we are going to face in protecting them is climate change.
That’s why we’ve worked so hard to jump-start a clean energy revolution and to build a solar industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds. That’s why we’re tackling carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan here in America and by rallying the whole world to tackle climate change together through the Paris Agreement.
Climate change is no longer just a threat; it’s already a reality. Yosemite meadows are drying up. Bird ranges are shifting further north. Alpine mammals are being forced further upslope to escape higher temperatures. We’re also seeing longer, more expensive, and more dangerous wildfire seasons — fires that are raging across the West right now.
In the coming years and decades, rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Glacier National Park and no more Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades and at some point might even threaten landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Doing nothing to stop those changes is not the example we want to set for the next generation.
We have to take seriously the idea that these treasured places could be marred or lost to history. We can’t deal with it later or think that it’s somebody else’s problem. And we can’t let climate change deniers carelessly suggest that we don’t need to get serious about the carbon pollution being released into our atmosphere or that we should scrap an international climate treaty that we spent years putting together. We can’t afford to go backward.
And much the same as clean, renewable energy is no threat to America’s capitalist model, national parks and monuments may be communally owned and enjoyed, but are also very much part of the Capitalist fabric: Headwaters Economics calculated that in 2015, non-local park visits totaled 307,247,267, spending amounted to $16.9 trillion, visitor spending (alone) supported 251,997 jobs and $8.1 trillion in income. There are whole towns, as well as tens of thousands of small businesses, that depend upon their proximity to a national park (as was dramatically demonstrated when Republicans shut down government in 2013.)
This does not even take into consideration the public health benefits of national parks, the value to families, to the benefits of personal experience. Priceless to be sure, if not incalculable.
Signing a proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Obama declared, “NPS parks and programs strive to tell our diverse stories, allowing us to learn from the past and help write our country’s next great chapters. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, let us thank all those who — through their dedication to the mission of the NPS — help our country build on the legacy left by all those who came before us. As we look to the next century and embrace the notion that preserving these public spaces in ways that engage, reflect, and honor all Americans has never been more important, let us summon the foresight and faith in the future to do what it takes to protect our National Parks for generations to come.” (see 2016parkservice.prc.rel.pdf)
Update:Marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, President Obama designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine as our 413th national park site. The park is more than 87,500 acres in size and sits along the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. In addition, Obama will more than quadruple the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area.
President Obama would veto two laws coming out of the Senate which would weaken federal Clean Water Act protections, according to The Office of Management and Budget. The OMB has issued Statements of Administration Policy regardingS. 1140, the Orwellian named “Federal Water Quality Protection Act” sponsored bySen. Barrasso, R-WY, and 46 co-sponsors) and S.J.Res. 22 – Disapproving EPA/Army Rule on Waters of the United States being proposed by Sen. Ernst, R-IA, and 49 cosponsors, that state the President would veto the laws if they make it to his desk.
S. 1140″Federal Water Quality Protection Act”
The Administration strongly opposes S. 1140, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) to withdraw and re-propose specified regulations needed to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies’ rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The final rule has been through an extensive public engagement process.
Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities. More than one in three Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources. The protection of wetlands is also vital for hunting and fishing. When Congress passed the CWA in 1972 to restore the Nation’s waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream.
Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers used for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation. This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court’s decisions. The final rule was developed to address this uncertainty.
If S. 1140 were enacted, any revisions to the CWA regulations would require the agencies to define waters of the United States in a manner inconsistent with the CWA as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in more confusion, uncertainty, and inconsistency.
S.1140 would require the agencies to expend scarce resources to duplicate the transparent rulemaking process just completed, which involved extensive public outreach and participation, including over 400 public meetings, and 1 million public comments. The agencies met with States, municipalities, small businesses, farmers, ranchers, miners, foresters, conservation groups, and many others to solicit input and reflect that input in a final rule. A regulation as prescribed in S. 1140 would raise costs for landowners and businesses seeking a CWA permit and increase delays in the permit process. S. 1140 also would reduce protection of the Nation’s water quality and result in higher drinking water treatment costs, increased contamination of fish and shellfish, loss of recreational opportunities including hunting and fishing, and more frequent algal blooms that choke rivers and lakes and make waters unhealthy as a drinking water source or to swim and fish in. Wetlands serve as a natural buffer to reduce flooding, and by ignoring this important role, S.1140 also would lead to more frequent and more damaging losses from floods. Families, communities, and businesses will have no choice but to pay for increased flood protection that natural wetlands currently provide for free.
If the President were presented with S. 1140, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
S.J.Res. 22 – Disapproving EPA/Army Rule on Waters of the United States
The Administration strongly opposes S.J.Res. 22, which would nullify a specified Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) final rule clarifying the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies’ rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The final rule has been through an extensive public engagement process.
Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities. More than one in three Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources. The protection of wetlands is also vital for hunting and fishing. When Congress passed the CWA in 1972 to restore the Nation’s waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream.
Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers used for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation. This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court’s decisions. The final rule was developed to address this uncertainty and it should remain in place.
If enacted, S.J.Res. 22 would nullify years of work and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water. EPA and Army have sought the views of and listened carefully to the public throughout the extensive public engagement process for this rule.
Simply put, S.J.Res. 22 is not an act of good governance. It would sow confusion and invite conflict at a time when our communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation.
If the President were presented with S.J.Res. 22, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.