800,000 Workers May Miss Their Second Paychecks, but Pelosi Wanted to Visit Afghanistan
– By Preetam Kaushik
President Trump denied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a delegation the use of a military plane to visit Afghanistan on Thursday, January 17. In his letter to Pelosi, the President wrote that her trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan had been postponed due to the shutdown.
About one-quarter of the federal government has been partially shut down since December 22. It is the longest government shutdown in the U.S. history and has affected nearly 800,000 federal workers and contractors. They are either working without pay or have been staying home on furlough.
The President in his letter reminded Pelosi of the federal workers. He called her visit to Afghanistan a “public relations event” and wrote that it would be “totally appropriate” to postpone it, considering that 800,000 American workers had yet to receive their pay.
He asked the House Speaker to remain in Washington so that there could be a negotiation to end the partial government shutdown. President Trump also wrote that the trip would be rescheduled once the shutdown is over. He suggested that the Democratic leader if she wished, could just fly commercial.
President Trump sent the missive a day after Pelosi suggested that he reschedule his State of the Union address, citing security concerns. The President’s critics believe that his decision to cancel her military plane is a “tit-for-tat” retaliation move. However, a White House official has reportedly denied that the decision was a “response” to Pelosi’s letter.
A senior White House official said that 800,000 federal workers would have certainly missed their second paychecks if Pelosi had gone to Afghanistan, Fox News reported. She has to be present in the country to negotiate a shutdown deal.
Not Just Pelosi’s Foreign Trip, US Delegation’s Davos Trip also Canceled
The U.S. Government is also not sending a delegation to Davos Economic Forum, which begins on Tuesday, January 22, out of concern for the 800,000 workers. President Trump announced in December that he was going to attend the World Economic Forum; but earlier this month, he said that he would not attend due to the partial shutdown.
In President Trump’s place, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was set to lead a scaled-down delegation to Davos. Now, the delegation, too, will not attend the World Economic Forum. Hours after postponing Pelosi’s trip, President Trump also canceled the Davos delegation’s trip as well, citing concerns about the shutdown.
Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, said in a statement that the President canceled his delegation’s trip to the Economic Forum because of the 800,000 workers who had not been receiving their paychecks.
On Thursday, President Trump not just grounded Pelosi’s foreign trip but also canceled the presidential delegation’s Davos trip. But, for the mainstream media and his opponents, the decision to postpone Pelosi’s trip was “inappropriate” and a “petty move” to punish the House Speaker for threatening to disinvite the President from giving his State of the Union address.
On Friday, January 18, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise came out in support of Trump, saying that his move was appropriate. He told Fox & Friends that it was Pelosi’s letter on the State of the Union address that was “unprecedented” and “unbecoming.”
Pelosi First Invites Then Threatens to Disinvite
On January 3, soon after she was elected the Speaker, and 13 days after the partial government shutdown, Pelosi sent an invitation to President Trump, asking him to address a “joint session of Congress” on January 29. Nearly two weeks later, on Wednesday, she again wrote a letter to the President. In the new letter, she suggested that the President postpone his address, or submit the address in writing, citing security concerns.
Apparently, the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, too, have not received funds for days now. Pelosi feels that the two federal agencies, which ensure the security of a National Special Security Event (NSSE), are so affected by the shutdown that they would not be able to protect the government officials.
The House speaker suggested that President Trump should address Congress on another day; after the government re-opens. She also gave him the option to deliver his speech in writing on the originally scheduled date, January 29.
It looks like Pelosi never reached out to the Department of Home Security, or Secret Service, to confirm her assumption, as Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Home Security, was quick to dismiss Pelosi’s security concerns. She wrote on her Twitter feed that both the government agencies were “fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.”
Columnist Marc A. Thiessen believes that Pelosi is lying about her reason to postpone the State of Union address. In his opinion piece for the Washington Post, he slammed Pelosi, calling her concern for security as “fake news,” adding, “Pelosi isn’t worried about security.”
He wrote that her security concerns were “faux” and described her move to stop the President from addressing the Congress as “unprecedented” and “outrageous.” Thiessen also pointed out that it was the first time in America’s history that a House speaker “invited, and then disinvited, a sitting president” to deliver his State of Union address.
He also criticized President Trump’s critics who are always ready to denounce him for “shattering presidential norms,” but they seem to be “perfectly fine” with what Pelosi is doing.
Pelosi Refuses to Negotiate
The shutdown stalemate continues as Pelosi refuses to negotiate with the government until the shutdown is over. On Saturday, she rejected President Trump’s compromise deal even before he announced it.
On December 22, the federal government announced the partial shutdown after the Democrats refused to provide any funding for a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border. President Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for the border wall. But with Democrats taking control of the House, it has now become an uphill battle to get the funding for it.
While the President believes that the wall will secure the country’s Southern border, Pelosi is staunchly opposed to the wall. On the day she was elected as the House speaker, she joked that she would give $1 for the border wall. Moreover, she has underscored again and again that Democrats would never vote for it.
Earlier this month, when asked about the partisan standoff over wall funding, Pelosi told the media, “A wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”
It is also immoral to not negotiate with the President, especially when federal workers and contractors, caught in the partial government shutdown, are bracing for a second missed paycheck this Friday. The Democrats refuse to even listen to the President’s proposal because, for them, illegal immigrants are more important than American workers.
President Trump proposed a “common-sense compromise” to end the partial shutdown and strengthen border security on Saturday. He offered temporary protection for 700,000 Dreamers, who are allowed to keep their protection for three more years, in exchange for the border wall. Plus, the President announced that he would restore temporary status protection, or TPS, for 300,000 people.
He was expecting that his new proposal would “break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward,” according to the New York Times. But, the Democrats rejected it even before the President had spoken about it, saying that it was a “non-starter.”
Pelosi said that the “expected offer” was “not-a-good-faith” effort and it would not help the immigrants, Fox 59 reported. Moreover, even before hearing what he had to say, she called the offer a “compilation of several previously rejected initiatives.” And all the initiatives were unacceptable to her.
On Sunday, President Trump took to Twitter to defend his proposal and ask the Democrats to do the “right thing” for the country. He wrote that the House speaker and her party “turned down” his offer before he could even get up to speak, adding that they were focused on only 2020 and did not see the crime and the drugs. The President also wrote that they should do the right thing so that people could return to work.
Partial Shutdown Likely to Continue this Week
Pelosi was prepared to take a commercial plane to visit Afghanistan after the President barred her and other Congressional delegations from using a federally funded military aircraft. She, however, canceled her plan to travel by the commercial plane on Friday. So, she is in the country, but it does not look like she and the President will agree on any proposal to end the partial shutdown this week.
The House speaker remains adamant that the shutdown must first end for any negotiation to begin. Responding to one of Trump’s tweets, Pelosi repeated her stance that President Trump must re-open the government, letting 800, 000 American workers get their paychecks, and then they can talk about border security.
Both President Trump and Pelosi are sticking to their guns, probably because there is a very little political incentive in blinking first. But they really need to think about the 800,000 Americans and their paychecks and not just talk about them.