US Congress votes to end shutdown, Trump claims victory

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gestures to reporters after lawmakers struck a deal to reopen the federal government three days into a shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2018
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US Congress votes to end shutdown, Trump claims victory

WASHINGTON: Congress put the US government back in business Monday by voting to end a three-day shutdown, as President Donald Trump claimed victory in his standoff with Democrats in Washington.
The House voted 266 to 150 to extend federal funding, hours after Senate Democrats dropped their opposition to the plan after winning Republican assurances of a vote on immigration in the coming weeks.
Trump signed the measure into law Monday night, and government operations would essentially return to normal on Tuesday.
“I know there’s great relief that this episode is coming to an end,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told colleagues. “But this is not a moment to pat ourselves on the back. Not even close.”
The stalemate consumed Washington for the better part of a week, as lawmakers and the White House feuded over immigration policy and the nation’s two main political parties exchanged bitter barbs before finally reaching a deal.
“I am pleased Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” Trump said in a defiant statement, as lawmakers moved to get hundreds of thousands of federal government employees back to work.
Democrats decided to end the three-day shutdown after making progress with ruling Republicans toward securing the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called “Dreamers” brought to America as children, many of them illegally.
With Democratic support, a bill keeping the government funded until February 8 easily passed the Senate, where different versions of the funding had languished for days.
Word of the compromise deal struck in Washington sent US stocks surging to new highs.
But the White House appeared in no mood for bipartisanship or magnanimity after a shutdown that overshadowed Trump’s first anniversary in office.
Trump moved to undercut Democrats, saying he would only accept a comprehensive immigration reform — one that notably addresses his demands for a border wall with Mexico as well as the fate of the “Dreamers.”
“We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country,” he said.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer earlier announced his party would vote with Republicans to end the shutdown, but in a sign of the poisoned politics of Washington he pilloried Trump in the process.

“The White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend. The great deal-making president sat on the sidelines,” Schumer said.
Trump spent the weekend stewing at the White House when he had planned to be among friends and family at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida for his anniversary bash.
And with the fundamental row on immigration and funding of Trump’s border wall unresolved, Republicans and Democrats may very well find themselves back in a similar stalemate come February 9.

Schumer told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he expected Republicans to make good on a pledge to address Democrats’ concerns over the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals (DACA) program that shields immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, but expires on March 5.
There are an estimated 700,000 “Dreamers” whose fates are up in the air.
“If he does not, of course, and I expect he will, he will have breached the trust of not only the Democratic senators but members of his own party as well,” Schumer said.
Trump has staked his political fortunes on taking a hard line on immigrants, painting them as criminals and scroungers.
Senator Tim Kaine summed up the view of the more optimistic Democrats: “We got a commitment that I feel very, very good about.”
But if no progress is made on an immigration bill, Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institution warned, “Democrats still have the ability to potentially force another shutdown over the issue.”
The House is under no obligation to pass any Senate bill generated as a result of McConnell’s pledge to cooperate with Democrats — although Speaker Ryan did say his chamber needs to “move forward in good faith” on DACA and immigration.
Notably, many of the Senate Democrats who voted against the funding agreement included a litany of potential 2020 presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren.

Ahead of the deal, Trump had goaded Democrats from the sidelines, accusing them of shutting down the government to win concessions on immigration, in service of “their far left base.”
There have been four government shutdowns since 1990. During the last one, in October 2013, more than 800,000 government workers were put on temporary leave.
Essential federal services and the military were operational on Monday.


Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

Updated 7 min 55 sec ago
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Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

  • Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months
  • All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso security forces have summarily executed more than 115 civilians since mid-last year during operations against militants who themselves have killed over a third of that number, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months, as militant groups seek to increase their influence across the Sahel.
A Burkinabe government spokesman declined to comment, but said authorities would issue a statement shortly. None of the multiple militant groups operating in Burkina Faso could be reached for comment.
HRW documented “the execution by Burkinabe security forces of over 115 men accused of supporting or harboring the armed Islamists,” as well as 42 killings carried out by militants of suspected government collaborators.
All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019.
“Scores of people have been murdered,” Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Villagers are living in fear as both armed Islamists and government forces have demonstrated utter disregard for human life.”
Burkina Faso has become the latest focal point for a determined regional militant campaign, seven years after well-armed extremists took over northern Mali in 2012, prompting the French to intervene the following year to push them back.
However, any evidence of reprisals would present an uncomfortable dilemma for Western allies such as France and the United States: backing security forces in countries such as Burkina Faso is key to containing the militant threat, but that support is meant to be conditional on respect for human rights.
Burkina declared a state of emergency in several provinces in December following an attack by an Al-Qaeda-linked group. The state of emergency was extended by six months in January after an dozens died in ethnic violence triggered by the suspected militant killing of a traditional ruler.
Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces.
According to the HRW report, in the village of Gasseliki, about 230 km north of the capital Ouagadougou, militants killed 12 people.
“They kicked the door in, went room to room and found us hiding,” the report quoted a witness as saying. Reprisals by security forces were mostly carried out by a detachment of about 100 gendarmes, or military police, based in the town of Arbinda, since late August, it said.
Most were from the Fulani ethnic group, whom the militants have targeted heavily for recruitment.
Earlier this month, Burkina Faso acknowledged accusations of abuse, saying the army was committed to human rights and that it “investigations are ongoing into the facts.”