Trump tweets into the void as shutdown sets record
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the partial government shutdown slipped into the record books Saturday, members of Congress had left town, no negotiations were scheduled and President Donald Trump tweeted into the void.
He did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emergency declaration that could break the impasse, free up money for his wall without congressional approval and kick off legal challenges and a political storm over the use of that extraordinary step. A day earlier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now.”
Lawmakers are due back in Washington from their states and congressional districts in the new week.
Trump fired off a series of tweets pushing back against the notion that he doesn’t have a strategy to end what became the longest government shutdown in U.S. history when it entered its 22nd day Saturday. “Elections have consequences!” he declared, meaning the 2016 election in which “I promised safety and security” and, as part of that, a border wall.
But there was another election, in November, and the consequence of that is that Democrats now control the House and they refuse to give Trump money for a wall.
Selective shutdown? Trump tries to blunt impact, takes heat
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: Hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next paycheque, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate in Washington carry on another month.
But if you’re a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company planning to drill offshore or a taxpayer awaiting your refund , you’re in luck: This shutdown won’t affect your plans.
All administrations get some leeway to choose which services to freeze and which to maintain when a budget standoff in Washington forces some agencies to shutter. But in the selective reopening of offices, experts say they see a willingness to cut corners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally dubious territory to mitigate the pain. Some noted the choices seem targeted at shielding the Republican-leaning voters whom Trump and his party need to stick with them.
The cumulative effect is a government shutdown — now officially the longest in U.S. history — that some Americans may find financially destabilizing and others may hardly notice.
Russell T. Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the overarching message from Trump has been “to make this shutdown as painless as possible, consistent with the law.”
GOP rejected Obama’s executive reach, but accepts Trump’s
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama stunned Republicans when he bypassed Congress and, relying on what he called his pen and his phone, used executive powers to enact his agenda, including protecting millions of young immigrants from deportation.
Now, with President Donald Trump proposing an even more dramatic end-run around Congress to build his promised border wall with Mexico, many Republicans are uneasily cheering him on.
The potential use of a national emergency declaration by Trump for the border wall shows the extent to which the party is willing to yield on treasured values — in this case, the constitutional separation of powers — to steer clear of confronting the White House and give the president what he wants.
It’s a different accommodation from just a few years ago. Then Republicans often called out Obama as overstepping his authority in using executive actions when Congress failed to act on White House priorities. They complained about Obama as “king,” ”emperor” or “tyrant.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, said most conservatives would go along with Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency as “the last tool in the tool box” for building the wall.
Ex-kidnapping victims: Jayme Closs needs space, time to heal
CHICAGO (AP) — Katie Beers’ joy quickly turned to deep concern when she learned 13-year-old Jayme Closs had been found alive in rural Wisconsin nearly three months after police say a man shot and killed her parents then abducted the girl from their home.
“She is going to have to grieve the loss of her parents and also come to terms with the fact she was abducted, escaped and whatever (other) hell she went through,” said Beers. “And it’s not going to be easy.”
Beers knows that better than most.
Sunday will mark 26 years since a then-10-year-old Beers was rescued from an underground concrete bunker in Bay Shore, New York, where she had been held captive for more than two weeks by a family friend who had lured her to his home with the promise of birthday presents.
As Jayme begins to process her trauma, experts and former victims say what she needs most is space and time to discuss it on her own terms. And with the help of a supportive and understanding family, she likely will be able to recover and live a happy life.
Democrats roll out big health care proposals in the states
SEATTLE (AP) — Riding the momentum from November’s elections, Democratic leaders in the states are wasting no time delivering on their biggest campaign promise — to expand access to health care and make it more affordable.
The first full week of state legislative sessions and swearings-in for governors saw a flurry of proposals.
In his initial actions, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to expand Medicaid to those in the country illegally up to age 26, implement a mandate that everyone buy insurance or face a fine, and consolidate the state’s prescription drug purchases in the hope that it will dramatically lower costs.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a public health insurance option for people who are not covered by Medicaid or private employers and have trouble affording policies on the private market.
Democrats in several states where they now control the legislature and governor’s office, including New Mexico, are considering ways that people who are uninsured but make too much to qualify for Medicaid or other subsidized coverage can buy Medicaid policies.
Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 campaign
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Assailing President Donald Trump for “a crisis of leadership,” former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge the incumbent accelerates.
Castro, who could end up being the only Latino in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field, made immigration a centerpiece of his announcement in his hometown of San Antonio, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two days after the president visited the border to promote his promised wall, Castro mocked Trump for claiming that the U.S. faces an “invasion” from its ally to the south. “He called it a national security crisis,” Castro said. “Well, there is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”
Castro, the 44-year-old grandson of a Mexican immigrant, said he was running for president “because it’s time for new leadership, because it’s time for new energy and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities that I’ve had are available to every American.”
He made the announcement during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, and as the field of 2020 contenders widens and anticipation grows around bigger names still considering runs.
Storm dumps snow on Midwest; at least 5 dead in crashes
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A massive winter snowstorm that blanketed several Midwest states was a factor in at least five road deaths on Saturday and forced the grounds crew to scramble to clear snow from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City ahead of the NFL divisional playoff game.
The storm moved into Kansas and Nebraska from the Rockies on Friday, then east into Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, covering roads and making driving dangerous. Part of Interstate 44 near St. Louis was blocked for several hours Saturday, and at one point the Missouri State Highway Patrol warned of traffic delays as long as eight hours.
In Indiana, the northbound lanes of Interstate 65 were closed for hours Saturday after a semitruck jackknifed along the snow-covered highway near Lafayette, about 65 miles (105 kilometres) northwest of Indianapolis.
The storm began to spread east into the Mid-Atlantic region, with between 5 and 10 inches (13 to 25 centimetres) of snow expected in the Washington area, including parts of northern and central Maryland, by Sunday. Forecasters said heavy snow could fall in mountain areas north of Interstate 64, such as Charlottesville and Staunton, Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday night to help the state of Virginia prepare.
Missouri had gotten the worst of the storm by Saturday, with the National Weather Service reporting more than a foot (30.48 centimetres) of snow Saturday morning in some places around St. Louis and Jefferson City, and more than 18 inches (45 centimetres) in Columbia.
Woman who fled Saudi Arabia reaches her new home in Canada
TORONTO (AP) — Tired but smiling, an 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she feared death if deported back home arrived Saturday in Canada, which offered her asylum in a case that attracted global attention after she mounted a social media campaign.
“This is Rahaf Alqunun, a very brave new Canadian,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said arm-in-arm with the Saudi woman in Toronto’s airport.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun smiled broadly as she exited an airport arrival door sporting a Canada zipper hoodie and a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees hat, capping a dramatic week that saw her flee her family while visiting Kuwait and before flying to Bangkok. Once there, she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation and tweeted about her situation.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would accept Alqunun as a refugee. Her situation has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home.
Freeland said Alqunun preferred not to take questions Saturday.
3 dead, dozens injured in Paris bakery gas leak explosion
PARIS (AP) — A powerful explosion apparently caused by a gas leak blew apart a Paris bakery on Saturday and devastated the street it was on, killing three people and injuring dozens as it blasted out windows and overturned nearby cars, French authorities said.
Witnesses described the sound of the explosion as deafening. Firefighters pulled injured victims out from broken windows and evacuated residents and tourists as a fire raged and smoke billowed over Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris.
Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass, and people were trapped inside nearby buildings.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner paid homage to the courage of rescuers, who saved the life of one firefighter who was buried under the rubble for 2 1/2 hours.
The French Interior Ministry said two firefighters and a female Spanish tourist were killed by the blast and about 10 of the 47 wounded were in critical condition. French authorities corrected the figure of four dead given earlier by France’s interior minister.
Gurley, Rams run through Cowboys, advance with 30-22 victory
LOS ANGELES (AP) — C.J. Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley rushed for 115 more yards and another TD in the Los Angeles Rams’ first playoff victory in 14 years, 30-22 over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round on Saturday night.
Gurley and Anderson punished the Cowboys’ normally sturdy run defence and sent the second-seeded Rams (14-3) to the NFC championship game for the first time in 17 years. Los Angeles racked up a franchise playoff-record 273 yards on the ground — also the most ever allowed in the post-season by the Cowboys, who were playing in their NFL-record 63rd post-season game.
The long-struggling Rams had won only one post-season game since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but 32-year-old coach Sean McVay has added his first playoff victory to his spectacular two-season franchise turnaround.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a TD and Amari Cooper caught an early TD pass for the Cowboys (11-7), who still haven’t won a playoff game on the road in 26 years. After winning the NFC East and beating Seattle last week, Dallas lost in the divisional playoff round for the sixth consecutive time and fell short of its first trip to the NFC championship game since January 1993.
Next weekend, the Rams will face the winner of the other divisional playoff game in New Orleans between the top-seeded Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The Associated Press