Trump turns again to Democrats; Senate takes up disaster relief

House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, center, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Updated 08 September 2017

Trump turns again to Democrats; Senate takes up disaster relief

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump turned to Democrats for a second straight day on Thursday to try to resolve the fate of so-called Dreamers brought illegally into the United States as children, a day after stunning his fellow Republicans by striking a deal with the opposition party on US debt and federal spending.
The Senate was expected to vote on Thursday afternoon on the deal Trump hammered out with Democrats on Wednesday. The bill included raising the limit on federal borrowing, extending current government funding and providing disaster relief for hurricane victims.
But any bill passed by the Senate would have to go back to the House of Representatives for final approval, and the measure faced stiff opposition from House conservatives who traditionally favor strict curbs on federal spending.
The leadership of the largest group of House Republican conservatives came out against it on Thursday, saying it meant more federal spending without fiscal reforms.
After blindsiding Republican leaders with the deal with Democrats on fiscal issues, Trump called top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer on Thursday morning, along with the Republican congressional leaders, the White House said.
The Washington Post said that he, Schumer and Pelosi had agreed to work toward a permanent repeal of the requirement for Congress to repeatedly raise the debt ceiling.
Any measure would still have to pass the House and the Senate, both controlled by Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday he opposes any effort to do away with the role of Congress in approving increases to the debt limit.

Dreamers and Democrats
On the issue of the 800,000 so-called Dreamers, Pelosi said Trump made clear he wants Congress to act to address what happens to them.
On Tuesday, the president rescinded a program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that protected them from deportation and provided them work permits. But Trump gave Congress six months to work on an alternative by delaying implementation until March.
Democrats want Congress to pass legislation addressing the Dreamers without other issues attached, but Pelosi did not rule out including border security measures that Trump and Ryan want included.
“I am praying that the president really cares about the Dreamers, or knows that he should care about the Dreamers, and that we’re going to pass this bill. And we want to do it as soon as possible to strike while the iron is hot, because public opinion is so much in favor,” Pelosi told reporters.
Pelosi added that Trump “probably wants some border enforcement and we have a responsibility to secure our borders,” but said that does not include his planned wall along the US-Mexico border, which is opposed by many Democrats.
Pelosi said she told Trump the Dreamers needed his assurance his action did not set up a six-month period of roundup for deportation. Trump subsequently wrote on Twitter, “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about — No action!“
Schumer said he hoped Wednesday’s agreement with Trump was “a ray of hope for both parties coming together on the big issues,” and said Congress should turn to resolving the Dreamers issue and fixing the health care system.
No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn was dismissive of Schumer’s demand that a Dreamers measure with nothing attached be put on the Senate floor.

Disaster relief
The House approved a $7.8 billion disaster relief measure on Wednesday to help rebuild Texas and Louisiana from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. Senate negotiators, eyeing urgent requests from Florida officials who are expecting heavy damage from Hurricane Irma, nearly doubled that sum, cobbling together a $15.2 billion emergency spending bill.
Additionally, the Senate bill would continue current government funding, which otherwise would expire on Sept. 30 at the end of the fiscal year, until Dec. 8. This move would avoid a possible government shutdown as the next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
The measure would also give the US Treasury Department renewed ability to borrow money, with an extension of the statutory debt limit until Dec. 8.
With Democrats typically united against him, Trump has failed to win passage of any major legislation since taking office in January, despite Republican control of Congress. His deal with Pelosi and Schumer on Wednesday drew the ire of some conservative groups and Republican hard-liners.
Some conservative groups have objected to coupling a debt-limit increase with the emergency funds, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, moved ahead with the bill at Trump’s urging.
“The recovery effort for a record-setting storm like Harvey has strained resources to the limit already. The advance of another historic storm now makes the need for action even more urgent. So let’s work together and act on this legislation very quickly,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

Updated 53 min 48 sec ago

Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

  • India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries
  • 500,000 Delhi soldiers are positioned in the portion of Kashmir India controls

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighboring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh. The leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payments crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power, the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the audience, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and its Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan also told the FII event that his country looks forward to a strong investment partnership with Saudi Arabia, including on energy projects.

Pakistan needs two oil refineries to meet demand, Khan said, and talks are underway with Saudi investors about the projects.

During the panel discussion Khan discussed investment, a corrupt-free Pakistan and “Naya Pakistan.” Naya Pakistan refers to a return to the principles of the country’s founding fathers: Truth, justice, meritocracy, the welfare state and, above all, the education of its people. He said it was particularly important to raise female literacy in Pakistan. 

Khan has been in power for 60 days but has inherited a massive debt. “We need to increase our exports because we have a shortage of foreign reserves,” he said.

Khan is looking for mix of loans from the International Monetary Fund IMF and “friendly governments” to address the shortfall. 

Key priorities were fighting corruption and creating jobs, Khan added, saying clamping down on money laundering was a major priority for the government. 

“Corruption is what makes a country poor,” he said. “It’s the difference between the developing world and an underdeveloped country. Corruption does two things; it destroys institution and diverts money from human development.”

With 100 million people below the age of 35, Khan said unemployment and housing were big pressures on the government but that Pakistan has embarked on an ambitious program to build five million homes in the next five years. He said the information technology sector could be an area where Pakistan could improve its exports and provide new jobs. 

“Pakistan is a country with potential. We have lost our way since the 60s but now Pakistan is ready and our biggest resource is the youth. And today is the best time to invest,” he said. 

Minerals, gold, copper reserves, zinc, gas, unexplored gas and tourism were areas that investors would be interested in, Khan said. 

“There is a vast amount of mineral wealth in Pakistan. We have some of the largest gold reserves in the world, as well as reserves of copper and zinc. Tourism is also a vital sector and has flourished in recent years.”

Khan said that Pakistan had now “controlled terrorism.”

“We need peace and stability and when Afghanistan’s situation settles, terrorism will end and the investments will grow to the central Asia region.” 

Khan said he admired China for tackling two problems that were the main issues facing Pakistan — poverty and corruption. 

In the past China had a large population that was on the brink of starvation but it had now brought 7 million people out of poverty and clamped down on corruption. Khan said that he was traveling to China next month for help in these two areas.