A Bumpy Road Ahead

Grind for January 9th, 2019
“Haste makes waste.”

– Benjamin Franklin


The Headline

Government shutdown continues

The Grind

This year will likely be remembered as having begun during one of the longest government shutdowns in US history.

The partial shutdown, which enters its 18th day Tuesday, is the second-longest in history following a 21-day funding gap in 1995.

Of comparable length was a 16-day shutdown that occurred in October 2013 under Obama when GOP lawmakers resorted to drastic measures to block parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The current affects about 25% of the government including major departments such as: Interior, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Treasury, and State.

The Details

Trump says he won’t agree to reopen the government unless Congress gives him $5 billion to start building a border wall.

Democrats, who before the shutdown promised not to provide any funding for the border wall, are now insisting that any deal to reopen the government not be tied to the wall.

“The impression you get from the president [is] that he would like to not only close the government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday.

Pelosi’s comments follow a tense meeting with the president last Friday, after which Trump threatened to declare a national emergency in order to redirect Defense Department money towards the border wall.

Vice President Mike Pence met with Democrats later during the weekend in an effort to make progress on negotiations.

As outlined in a letter from acting White House Budget Director Russel T. Vought, the Administration offered to include $800 million to “address urgent humanitarian needs” at the border in a bill which includes $5.7 billion “for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border.”

In the meantime, hundreds of federal workers are either out of a job or working without pay.

The shutdown has also created problems for the IRS, which has no way to process tax refunds, and for National Parks, which are growing dangerous without maintenance.

Last Friday, the HUD sent letters to 1,500 landlords urging them not to evict tenants who rely on federal assistance to pay rent.

If the shutdown continues into February, up to 38 million Americans could lose access to food assistance.

Not So Fast

The Headline

During visit to Israel, Bolton contradicts Trump on Syria withdrawal

The Grind

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday said US forces would remain in Syria until ISIS was destroyed. He also confirmed that pockets of ISIS in Syria remain undefeated.

His words contradict claims from President Trump, who last month suggested ISIS had been destroyed.

“We have won against ISIS,” said Trump on December 19th. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly; we’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

In response to Bolton’s words on withdrawal, Trump told reporters: “I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”

The Details

The three chief objectives related to US withdrawal from Syria are:

— Ensuring the safety of regional allies

— Preventing the reemergence of ISIS

— Pushing Iran out of Syria

As analysts and politicians have warned, a quick pullout could expose the Kurds (our allies) to an attack from Turkey, which views the Kurds as terrorists and has already vowed to drive them out if America leaves.

“The defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured,” said Bolton to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that the Trump Administration would “make sure ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.”

Bolton’s words came as a relief to lawmakers who were shocked by Trump’s withdrawal announcement.

“We don’t want ISIS to rise again and to be a transitional terrorist threat, and we don’t want our allies the Kurds to be slaughtered by Erdogan in Turkey,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA). “I’m pleased that John Bolton has recognized the national security interests, and that’s what we want to have.”

Speaking Sunday on CBS, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out…He has a goal of reducing our presence. I share that goal. Let’s just do it smartly.”

Graham last month warned Trump against withdrawal and called on Congress to hold hearings on the issue.

Bolton will visit Turkey later this week to speak with government officials about US withdrawal from Syria.

Did you know… It takes twelve years of corn to make a tablespoon of corn oil.