U.S. Government & governance 2019

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U.S. Government & governance 2018
U.S. Government & governance 2017 – 18
The firings and fury: The biggest Trump resignations and firings so far
How the shutdown might end, according to game theory
Brookings: Tracking turnover in the Trump administration
On Bullshit and the Oath of Office: The “LOL Nothing Matters” Presidency (November 2016)

Despite stated principles, McConnell readies vote on Trump’s shutdown plan
(MSNBC Rachel Maddow) During his speech on Saturday afternoon, unveiling his latest “plan” to end his government shutdown, Donald Trump declared, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring this bill to a vote this week in the United States Senate.”
…before the legislative head-counts begin in earnest, there’s a question that deserves an answer: whatever happened to Mitch McConnell’s principle of denying a vote on any measure that lacks bipartisan backing?
When the Democratic-led House approved several measures to end the shutdown – the same measures that Senate Republicans supported as recently as a month ago – McConnell refused to even consider them. The Senate GOP leader’s explanation was simple: there was no reason to bother with any legislation that didn’t enjoy congressional and White House support.

14-19 January
David Frum: The President’s Hostage Attempt Is Going Miserably Wrong
Once again, Trump tried and failed to strike a deal on Saturday.
President Donald Trump is trapped. He shut the government to impose his will on the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. That plan has miserably failed. Instead, Trump has found himself caught in the trap he supposed he had set for his opponents.
The shutdown was a demand for unconditional surrender. Unfortunately for him, the president lacks the political realism to recognize that he doesn’t have the clout to impose that surrender. He’s the one who will now have to climb down, and very soon, probably within days. The end of a hostage taking is not a surrender. But it will surely feel that way to the hostage taker—and deservedly, too.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands back as shutdown drags on
(PBS Newshour) The Republican leader has been conspicuously deferential to Trump since the shutdown began. He’s waiting on the president and Democrats to make a deal to end it. The result is an unusually inactive profile for the GOP leader who’s often the behind-the-scenes architect of intricate legislative maneuvers to resolve bitter partisan stalemates.
But the Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election in 2020 in a state where Trump tends to be more popular than he is, sees no other choice than to stand back and let the president who took the country into the shutdown decide how he wants to get out of it.
McConnell has plenty of solutions at the ready, allies say. But he sees no value in trying to execute a deal that Trump may not ultimately endorse. It’s not only a waste of time, in his view, it potentially exposes Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, including himself, as sideways to Trump’s wishes
McConnell said the “solution to the problem” is for the president, who he reminds is the only one who can sign a bill into law, to reach an agreement with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. “There’s no way around that,” he told reporters this week.
Trump and Pelosi: A Game of Spite and Malice
She gets under his skin. He punches back. Game on.
(NYT) On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle by effectively disinviting President Trump from delivering his State of the Union address to Congress this month.
In a letter citing concerns about the security implications of the continuing government shutdown, Ms. Pelosi suggested, “sadly,” that it might be best if she and the president could “determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing.”
The communiqué was at once excruciatingly polite and brutally dismissive, driving home how the power dynamic has shifted on Capitol Hill. As congressional Republicans sputtered about how grossly political the speaker was being, Mr. Trump was reminded not only of the limitations of his own power, but also of how his House enablers have been stripped of theirs.
Surprised and clearly irked, Mr. Trump fired back Thursday with a petulant, taunting letter postponing a congressional delegation that Ms. Pelosi had been scheduled to lead to Brussels and Afghanistan — or at least canceling military support for it — for the duration of the shutdown. “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” snarked the president.
Calling Trump’s bluff: The deal Democrats should offer to end the shutdown
By Morley Winograd, Senior Policy Advisor to Vice-President Gore in the second term of the Clinton administration.
(Brookings) To end the government shutdown, the Democrats should give Trump what he wants—$5 billion for the wall—and insist in return on what the country needs: complete protection of the Mueller investigation and the full public disclosure of its report.
Of course, adding money for the wall will be a hard pill for many Democrats to swallow. Legislative language that makes it clear it is not a literal concrete wall and provides for some continuing review of its effectiveness could help mitigate those concerns. But ultimately, Democrats should pay more attention to the long game that needs to be played here on behalf of the future of our democracy and to the need to end the suffering of hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have become the innocent victims of Trump’s vanity. A wall may well prove to be a $5 billion waste of money, but it is a small price to pay to finally expose the real threat to our country’s security that currently inhabits the Oval Office.
Shutdown bites economy, U.S. Coast Guard, as talks to end impasse stall
(Reuters) Democrats, who took over the House this month, have rejected the border wall but back $1.3 billion in other border security measures this year. They have insisted the government be fully open before negotiations occur. House Democrats have passed a number of bills to end the shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said the chamber will not consider anything Trump would not sign into law.
Compelled to work without pay, federal employees sue Trump, accusing him of violating 13th Amendment
(WaPost) The lawsuit is one of several pursued by federal workers against the Trump administration as the government shutdown enters its 24th day, the longest in history, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees without a paycheck and, in many cases, struggling to pay bills. Employees at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Prisons and Federal Aviation Administration have already filed lawsuits against the administration through their respective unions, among others.
But this case, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, diverges from the others by invoking the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the aftermath of the Civil War.

10-11 January
Andrew Sullivan: Welcome to Act III of the Trump Tragedy
(New York Magazine) When is the moment we can say that Trump has clearly gone over the line in erasing democratic and constitutional restraints on his personal power?
I’d say declaring a national emergency when there isn’t one to fund a project he can’t get through Congress pretty obviously qualifies.
Defenses of Trump’s Emergency Declaration Defy the Plain Language and Clear Intent of the Law
By David French
(National Review) …partisans are tripping over themselves to disregard the law in service of their imperial president. He doesn’t need Congress, they say. The law gives him the authority to declare an emergency and build his wall anyway. But if that’s true, why is the government shut down? Why are we going through this ridiculous charade? Why didn’t he declare an emergency and build the wall months ago? Why didn’t he deal with this crisis the moment he walked into office?
The answer is simple. If you look at the plain language and clear intent of the relevant statutes, they do not permit Trump to defy Congress and build his wall. He knows it. Congress knows it. His own lawyers know it.
I wrote a long piece earlier this week analyzing the relevant statutes and judicial precedent, and I won’t rehash all of that here, but the bottom line is that even under the most generous statute, only during a “national emergency” that “may require” the use of the military may the president allocate funds for “authorized” construction projects that are “essential to the national defense.”
No, Trump Can’t Use an Emergency Declaration To Build a Wall

7 January
Trump Literally Did Not Understand What a Shutdown Would Do
(New York) Two devastating reports in the Washington Post over the weekend detail the horrifying scope of their ignorance. The administration did not realize that 38 million Americans lose their food stamps under a shutdown, nor did it know that thousands of tenants would face eviction without assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Administration officials “recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact,” reports the Post, and was “focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.” First Trump shut down the government, and then the Trump administration started looking into what effect this would have.
Trump’s emergency threat on wall risks dual legal challenge
(Reuters) Legal scholars said it was unclear exactly how such a step would play out, but they agreed that a court test would likely focus on whether an emergency actually exists on the southern border and on the limits of presidential power over taxpayer funds.
Under the Constitution, decisions about spending taxpayer funds and creating new policy are made by Congress.
However, the president can make quick decisions during emergencies under a patchwork of laws in specific situations such as war, natural disasters and epidemics.
A 2007 report by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan research arm of the legislature, said: “Both the judiciary and Congress, as co-equal branches, can restrain the executive regarding emergency powers.”

3 January
Speaker Pelosi heralds ‘new dawn’ at opening of 116th Congress
(PBS Newshour) The 116th Congress gaveled into session Thursday swathed in history, returning Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker’s office and ushering in a diverse class of Democratic freshmen ready to confront President Donald Trump in a new era of divided government.
The new Congress is like none other. There are more women than ever before, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans in the House is creating what academics call a reflective democracy, more aligned with the population of the United States. The Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men, and in the Senate Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.
Pelosi, the first female speaker, was broadly pledging to make Congress work for all Americans — addressing kitchen table issues at a time of deep economic churn — even as her party is ready to challenge Trump with investigations and subpoena powers that threaten the White House agenda. It’s the first new Congress to convene amid a partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day over Trump’s demands for money for a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.
“This House will be for the people,” Pelosi said, outlining an agenda “to lower health costs and prescription drugs prices, and protect people with pre-existing conditions; to increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure — from sea to shining sea.”
Pelosi defied history in returning to the speaker’s office after eight years in the minority, overcoming internal opposition from Democrats demanding a new generation of leaders. She will be the first to regain the gavel since legendary Sam Rayburn of Texas in 1955.

2 January
A defensive Trump calls a Cabinet meeting and uses it to boast, deflect and distract
President Trump, 12 days into a government shutdown and facing new scrutiny from emboldened Democrats, inaugurated the new year Wednesday with a Cabinet meeting. It quickly became a 95-minute stream-of-consciousness defense of his presidency and worldview, filled with falsehoods, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement.

1 January
Trump invites congressional leaders to White House for wall briefing
(Politico) The meeting would mark the first time Trump has sat down with top congressional leaders of both parties since the shutdown started. There have been virtually no discussions until this point, and the meeting would offer both sides a chance to restart talks.
Democrats are set to take control of the House on Thursday and immediately pass a bill to reopen the government without providing the $5 billion the president has requested for his wall with Mexico. Trump, meanwhile, has vowed to hold out and continue the shutdown standoff until he gets funding for the southern structure.

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