Talks on US government shutdown continue on Sunday

People walk past a sign announcing that New York funds are keeping the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open for visitors as the US government shutdown enters its third week. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2019
0

Talks on US government shutdown continue on Sunday

  • Democrats agreed there had been little movement Saturday, saying the White House did not budge on the president’s key demand
  • Donald Trump wants $5.6 billion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border

WASHINGTON: White House officials and congressional aides are returning to discussions Sunday to find a way to reopen the government after emerging from the first round of weekend talks without a breakthrough.

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday: “Not much headway made today.” The president later tweeted that he planned to go to his retreat at Camp David, Maryland, on Sunday morning to discuss borders security and other topics with senior staff in a meeting separate from the negotiations.

Democrats agreed there had been little movement Saturday, saying the White House did not budge on the president’s key demand, $5.6 billion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

The White House said funding was not discussed in-depth, but the administration was clear they needed funding for a wall and that they wanted to resolve the shutdown all at once.

Accusations flew after the more than two-hour session led by Vice President Mike Pence. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” accused Democrats of being there to “stall.” Democrats familiar with the meeting said the White House position was “untenable.”

A White House official said the meeting included a briefing on border security by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Democrats sought written details from the Department of Homeland Security on their budget needs, which the White House said it would provide.

With talks stalled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House Democrats plan to start approving individual bills to reopen shuttered departments starting with Treasury to ensure Americans receive their tax refunds.

“While President Trump threatens to keep the government shut down for ‘years’, Democrats are taking immediate further action to re-open government, so that we can meet the needs of the American people, protect our borders and respect our workers,” Pelosi said.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” set to air Sunday, Mulvaney argued that the administration was willing to deal. He said Trump was willing to forgo a concrete wall for steel or other materials.

“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mulvaney said.

The president has already suggested his definition of the wall is flexible, referring to slats and other “border things.” But Democrats have made clear they see a wall as immoral and ineffective and prefer other types of border security funded at already agreed upon levels.

Trump had campaigned on the promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. Mexico has refused. He’s now demanding the money from Congress.

Trump, who did not attend the discussions, spent the morning tweeting about border security.

Showing little empathy for the hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay, Trump declared — without citing evidence — that most are Democrats. He also asserted: “I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?”

One Democrat, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, said in his party’s weekly radio address that the shutdown “is part of a larger pattern of a president who puts his personal whims and his effort to score political points before the needs of the American people. ... He is pointing fingers at everyone but himself.”


Babies not welcome in parliament, Danish speaker says

Members of the Dutch Senate (the First Chamber) in The Hague. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 2 sec ago
0

Babies not welcome in parliament, Danish speaker says

  • In 2016, an Icelandic lawmaker made headlines after breastfeeding her infant while speaking at the podium in parliament

COPENHAGEN: A Danish lawmaker said Tuesday she was ordered to remove her infant daughter from parliament’s chamber, sparking surprise in a country often hailed as a pioneer in women’s rights.
“You are not welcome with your baby in the parliament’s chamber,” speaker Pia Kjaersgaard, an outspoken former leader of the far-right Danish People’s Party, allegedly told MP Mette Abildgaard.
“I didn’t ask for permission to bring her since I had previously seen another colleague bring a child into the chamber without any problems,” Abildgaard, whose Conservative party is part of the ruling center-right coalition, wrote on Facebook.
Abildgaard, who is in her 30s, said she found herself in an exceptional situation with her five-month-old daughter, and had never brought her into the chamber before.
But she said the infant was “in a good mood and had a pacifier in her mouth.”
Kjaersgaard passed the message to an assistant, who then asked Abildgaard to remove the baby from the room.
Abildgaard handed the child to an assistant and returned to the chamber to vote.
“MPs should be in the chamber, not babies or children,” insisted Kjaersgaard when questioned by news agency Ritzau.
She said clear rules would be issued on the subject.
The Scandinavian country is often held up as a champion of gender equality and women’s rights, and as a child and family-centered nation with generous parental leave.
Abildgaard noted that she was entitled to a year’s maternity leave with full pay, but that she had chosen to return to work.
Her Facebook post garnered more than 600 comments within the space of a few hours.
“A chamber that represents mothers, fathers and babies ought to be open to mothers, fathers and babies,” one person wrote.
In 2016, an Icelandic lawmaker made headlines after breastfeeding her infant while speaking at the podium in parliament.
And in September, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became a symbol for working mothers when she brought her baby to the UN General Assembly in New York.