McConnell, Schumer Agree to Vote Thursday on Two Proposals to Resolve Funding Impasse

( – “The opportunity to end all of this is staring us in the face,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday, as he announced that the Senate will vote Thursday on President Trump’s “bold, comprehensive offer” to Democrats.

“All that needs to happen is Democrats agree it is time to put the country ahead of politics, take ‘yes’ for an answer, and vote to put this standoff behind us.”


McConnell said Trump’s proposal — money for a wall and other border security measures in exchange for a three-year extension of DACA and TPS — is “the only proposal that would reopen the government fully and immediately.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will introduce a second amendment that would temporarily re-open government until February 8, giving both sides time to negotiate border security while allowing federal workers to get paid.

It is doubtful that either measure will muster the necessary 60 votes to pass, however.

McConnell said that Trump’s proposal would fund ten “priority investments” identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including enhanced surveillance technologies, funding for the recruitment and training of 750 new Border Patrol agents, and $5.7 billion for the construction of a physical barrier.

It also would give three more years of legal standing to DACA enrollees and foreigners with temporary protected status.

McConnell noted that such proposals have earned strong bipartisan support in the past.

“To reject this proposal, Democrats would have to prioritize political combat with the President ahead of federal workers, ahead of DACA recipients, ahead of border security, and ahead of stable and predictable government funding. Is that really a price that Democrats want to pay to prolong this episode, which they say they want to be over and done with?” he asked.

“Is their plan truly to throw federal workers, DACA recipients, Customs and Border Patrol, and indeed all Americans under the bus just to extend this run of political theater? So they can look like champions of the so-called ‘Resistance’?”

Some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rejected Trump’s proposal even before he announced it on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s not exactly surprising,” McConnell said, “considering that just a few weeks ago, the Speaker went way out on a limb and declared that physical border security is on its face, quote, ‘an immorality.’ But not every Democrat seems to see it that way,” McConnell noted, as he quoted various Democrats who have expressed support for border fencing.

“It is high time to get serious,” McConnell said.

He noted that even the Washington Post’s editorial board –“which is no fan of the president” — has criticized the Democrats’ outright refusal to negotiate. “If even the Washington Post believes my friends the Democratic leaders’ total refusal to negotiate has grown very stale, you have to believe many of their own members must be starting to feel the same way.

“The president has made a comprehensive and bipartisan offer that would accomplish everything Democrats have said needs to be accomplished right now. It’s a strong proposal. It’s the only thing on the table. And later this week, we will vote on it.”

Schumer, also speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, said President Trump’s proposal is “neither reasonable, nor a compromise. There was no serious negotiation with any Democrat about what went into the proposal,” Schumer said, ignoring the fact that Democrats have refused to negotiate border security, insisting that government open first.

Schumer said the Democrat plan would open government “without any decision, one way or  the other, on border security.”

But it would open government long enough to give federal workers back pay.

“And it will allow us to then debate, without hostage-taking, without temper tantrum, without anything, how we can best do border security, get that done hopefully by February 8 and keep government open,” Schumer added.

The IMF Issues A Worldwide Warning: “The Risk Of A Sharper Decline In Global Growth Has Certainly Increased”

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde made headlines all over the globe this week when she declared that “the risk of a sharper decline in global growth has certainly increased”.  As you will see below, signs of economic trouble are popping up all over the planet, and pretty much just about everyone is now acknowledging that the global economy is slowing down.  But does that mean that we are headed for a global recession in 2019?  Well, things certainly do not look good right now, but there is still time to turn things around.  But in order to turn things in a more positive direction, something has got to be done to stop the downward momentum that seems to be accelerating in the early portion of this year. (Read More…)

France And Germany Take Major Step Toward EU Army To Protect “Europe Threatened By Nationalism”

French President Emmanuel Macron’s push for what he previously called “a real European army” got a big boost on Tuesday amid France and Germany signing an updated historic treaty reaffirming their close ties and commitment to support each other during a ceremony in the city of Aachen, a border town connected to Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire. But the timing for the renewal of the two countries’ 1963 post-war reconciliation accord is what’s most interesting, given both the rise of eurosceptic nationalism, the uncertainty of Brexit, and just as massive ‘Yellow Vests’ protests rage across France for a tenth week.

Macron addressed this trend specifically at the signing ceremony with the words, “At a time when Europe is threatened by nationalism, which is growing from within… Germany and France must assume their responsibility and show the way forward.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a signing of a new agreement on bilateral cooperation and integration, known as Treaty of Aachen. Image via Reuters

Germany’s Angela Merkel agreed, adding in her own remarks: “We are doing this because we live in special times and because in these times we need resolute, distinct, clear, forward-looking answers.” The agreement, which is being described as sparse on specifics or detail, focuses on foreign policy and defense ties between Berlin and Paris.

“Populism and nationalism are strengthening in all of our countries,” Merkel EU officials at the ceremony. “Seventy-four years – a single human lifetime – after the end of the second world war, what seems self-evident is being called into question once more.”

Macron said those “who forget the value of Franco-German reconciliation are making themselves accomplices of the crimes of the past. Those who… spread lies are hurting the same people they are pretending to defend, by seeking to repeat history.”

And in remarks that formed another affirmation that the two leaders are seeking to form an “EU army” Merkel said just before signing the treaty: “The fourth article of the treaty says we, Germany and France, are obliged to support and help each other, including through military force, in case of an attack on our sovereignty.”

The text of the updated treaty includes the aim of a “German-French economic area with common rules” and a “common military culture” that Merkel asserted could “contribute to the creation of a European army”.

Later before a press pool, Merkel endorsed the idea of a joint European army further:

We have taken major steps in the field of military cooperation, this is good and largely supported in this house. But I also have to say, seeing the developments of the recent years, that we have to work on a vision to establish a real European army one day.

She clarified that the new military organization wouldn’t exist as a counterpart to or in competition with NATO, similar to prior comments she made before European parliament.

Netanyahu threatens Gaza, Iran after flareups on two fronts

PM tells troops that the country is ready for every scenario and any escalation after strikes on Iranian forces in Syria, Hamas terrorists in coastal enclave


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets soldiers during a visit to the Shizafon army base, 23 January, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets soldiers during a visit to the Shizafon army base, 23 January, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday threatened the Gaza Strip after an escalation of violence on the border, saying that Israel was ready for all possible scenarios.

“Maybe there is someone in Gaza who thinks they can raise their head, but I suggest they understand that the response will be serious and very painful. We are prepared for every scenario and every escalation,” he told soldiers during a visit to the Shizafon army base in the south of the country.

Pompeo: Peace efforts to begin ‘immediately following Israeli elections’

In the past, the Trump administration has refused to commit to a timetable for rolling out its long-awaited plan


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen on screens during his address via satellite at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 22, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen on screens during his address via satellite at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 22, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the US will begin unspecified “work” on a renewed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians “immediately following” Israeli elections on April 9.

Speaking by satellite to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, the top US diplomat said the talks “won’t be a US-driven process. Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement. But we think that the foundations that we have laid and the work that we’ll do immediately following the Israeli elections will set conditions where we can have a constructive conversation.”

The Trump administration has “been working on this for a long time,” he added. “Mr. [Jared] Kushner has been in the lead along with Jason Greenblatt in developing our program.”

He confirmed that “we’ve begun to share elements of this across the region.”

In the past, the Trump administration has refused to commit to a timetable for the rollout of its peace plan, though speculation has centered on a post-election timeframe. The administration has also refused to divulge information about the plan’s content.

Last Thursday, a Channel 13 news report, swiftly denied by the Trump administration, claimed that the proposal provides for a Palestinian state in 85-90 percent of the West Bank, with the sovereign capital of Palestine located in “most of the Arab neighborhoods” of East Jerusalem.

In his Davos comments, Pompeo noted that the conflict “has troubled the region for decades and decades now. It seems to me that we’re at a point in time where there are ways that we can resolve the primary differences and encourage those two places, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to come together to resolve their differences and get a solution there that has bedeviled the world for an awfully long time.”

According to the Channel 13 report, based on what it said was information conveyed by a participant at a recent briefing by “a senior American,” the US administration’s so-called “deal of the century” provides for Jerusalem to be divided, with Israel maintaining sovereignty in West Jerusalem, parts of East Jerusalem and the “holy basin,” including the Old City and its immediate environs. However, it added that the “holy basin” area would be “jointly run” with the Palestinians, Jordan and possibly other countries.

The White House dismissed the story as unfounded speculation. “As in the past, speculations regarding the peace plan are inaccurate. We have no further reaction,” it said in a statement quoted by Channel 13.

In addition to 85-90% of the West Bank coming under Palestinian sovereignty, the Trump administration will reportedly also propose various land swaps — enabling Israel to extend its sovereignty into unspecified areas of the West Bank, in exchange for current Israeli territory. Channel 13 said the scale of such land swaps was not yet clear.

Regarding settlements, the TV report said major settlement blocs would be annexed to Israel. “Isolated” settlements — it named Yitzhar and Itamar as examples — would not be forcibly evacuated, but would also not be allowed to expand, and would thus be “dried out.” Outposts defined as illegal under Israeli law would be evacuated.

The report made no mention of the plan’s proposals regarding Palestinian refugees, nor of the intended fate of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

It said the Americans anticipate that the Palestinians will reject the proposal in its current form; Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the administration since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

It said that the administration expects Israel, by contrast, to say yes to the proposal.