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Trump says solution to shutdown impasse ‘so simple’

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Catherine Lucey and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press


Published Monday, January 14, 2019 7:46PM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2019 8:01AM EST

WASHINGTON — With the government mired in shutdown week four, U.S. President Donald Trump rejected a short-term legislative fix and dug in for more combat, declaring he would “never ever back down.”

Trump rejected a suggestion to reopen the government for several weeks while negotiations would continue with Democrats over his demands for $5.7 billion for a long, impregnable wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president also edged further away from the idea of trying to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress.

“I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” Trump said Monday. “This is so simple we shouldn’t have to.”

No cracks were apparent in the president’s deadlock with lawmakers after a weekend with no negotiations at all. His rejection of the short-term option proposed by Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham removed one path forward, and little else was in sight. Congressional Republicans were watching Trump for a signal for how to move next, and Democrats have not budged from their refusal to fund the wall and their demand that he reopen government before border talks resume.

The White House has been considering reaching out to rank-and-file Democrats rather than dealing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to try to chip away at Democratic opposition to the wall. A White House official said plans were in the works to call freshman representatives, especially those who initially did not support Pelosi’s bid for the speakership.

It was uncertain whether any Democrats would respond to the invitation.

Separately, around a dozen senators from both parties met Monday to discuss ways out of the shutdown gridlock. Participants included Graham and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was aware of the group’s effort but added, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s blessed it.” The odds of the group producing an actual solution without Trump’s approval seemed slim. In the past, centrists of both parties banding together have seldom resolved major partisan disputes.

Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill late Monday “discouraged,” according to GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, as all signals pointed to a protracted fight.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the GOP chairman of the Appropriations Committee, compared the shutdown saga to the play “Waiting for Godot.”

“And Godot never shows up,” Shelby said. “We could be protracted here for a long time. There’s nobody on the horse coming to rescue us … that I know about.”

Meanwhile, the impact of the 25-day partial government closure was intensifying around the country. Some 800,000 federal workers missed paychecks Friday, deepening anxieties about mortgage payments and unpaid bills, and about half of them were off the job, cutting off some services. Travellers at the Atlanta airport, the nation’s busiest, dealt with waits of more than an hour Monday as no-shows by security screeners soared.

Trump spent the weekend in the White House reaching out to aides and lawmakers and tweeting aggressively about Democratic foes as he tried to make the case that the wall was needed on both security and humanitarian grounds. He stressed that argument repeatedly during a speech at a farming convention in New Orleans on Monday, insisting there was “no substitute” for a wall or a barrier along the southern border.

Trump has continued to insist he has the power to sign an emergency declaration to deal with what he says is a crisis of drug smuggling and trafficking of women and children at the border. But he now appears to be in no rush to make such a declaration.

Instead, he is focused on pushing Democrats to return to the negotiating table — though he walked out of the most recent talks last week — and seized on the fact that a group of House and Senate Democrats were on a retreat in Puerto Rico. Democrats, he argued, were partying on a beach rather than negotiating — though Pelosi and Schumer were not on the trip.

White House officials cautioned that an emergency order remains on the table. Many inside and outside the White House hold that it may be the best option to end the budget standoff, reopening the government while allowing Trump to tell his base supporters he didn’t cave on the wall.

However, some GOP lawmakers — as well as White House aides — have counselled against it, concerned that an emergency declaration would immediately be challenged in court. Others have raised concerns about re-routing money from other projects, including money Congress approved for disaster aid. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also warned that acting under an emergency order would set a troubling precedent for executive power.

For now, Trump apparently sees value in his extended fight to fulfil a key campaign pledge, knowing that his supporters — whom he’ll need to turn out in 2020 to win re-election — don’t want to see him back down.

Trump was taking a wide range of advice on both sides of the issue, including from his new chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Rep. Mark Meadows, as well as outside political advisers.

In the House, Democrats look to keep the pressure on Trump by holding votes this week on two bills: one that would reopen the government until Feb. 1, and a second that would reopen it until Feb. 28.

Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said the bills offer “additional options” to end the shutdown and would give lawmakers time for negotiations on border security and immigration.

A key question is how long Trump is willing to hold out in hopes of extracting concessions from Democrats.

Recent polling finds a slight majority of Americans opposed to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — and few see the situation at the border as a crisis — but views are predictably divided by partisanship.

Polls also show that Americans are more likely to fault Trump for the shutdown. A large majority of Democrats put responsibility on Trump, while a slightly smaller majority of Republicans blame Democrats. A modest share of Republicans either hold Trump responsible or say both sides are at fault.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published Jan. 13 found that 54 per cent of Americans oppose a wall along the border, while 42 per cent express support for it. Fully 87 per cent of Republicans favour the wall, compared with about as many Democrats (84 per cent) who are opposed.

——

AP Writers Darlene Superville, Matthew Daly, Jonathan Lemire, Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this article

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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