Pence issues a thinly veiled shutdown threat to Democrats

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

President Donald Trump did not mention the 35-day shutdown that he began last December in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, preferring instead to wax poetic about unity and cooperation. The next morning, however, Vice President Mike Pence suggested Trump would welcome another shutdown unless Democrats give in to the White House’s demands.

In an appearance on CBS News Wednesday morning, Pence repeated White House talking points about criminal gangs and “narcotics” that are allegedly streaming across the border. In reality, undocumented immigrants are less than half as likely to commit a crime in the United States as native-born Americans. And, while illegal drugs do sometimes cross America’s southern border, Trump’s proposed solution — a border wall — would not address this problem.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, “cocaine seizures on U.S. borders . . . regularly measure in tons, making it impractical to have individual migrants ferry it across.” For this reason, “dealers prefer to smuggle drugs into the country via legal ports of entry, which allow them to bring in high-value substances that are more easily hidden.”

Nevertheless, Pence used his appearance on CBS to issue a thinly veiled threat to Democrats — give Trump what he wants, or federal workers and their families will pay the price.

Trump “has laid out a plan,” Pence said, which includes “a steel barrier,” “additional detection technology,” and more border guards. “All of that is exactly what the American people want us to do,” Pence falsely claimed, before delivering his threat.

“Congress should come together and deliver that. And by delivering that,” Congress can “avoid a government shutdown again.”

Multiple polls show that the American public opposes Trump’s proposal for a border wall — a recent Gallup poll, for example, found that 60 percent of Americans oppose the wall. Similarly, polls showed that the lion’s share of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown, which he himself said he would be “proud” to do. Trump’s disapproval ratings also spiked after he shut down the government.

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Federal employees were given a three-week reprieve from the shutdown after Trump caved to Democratic lawmakers, who offered no money for his wall. It will take another deal to fund the government past February 15 — at least under the ordinary way of funding the government.

The Trump administration is still reportedly contemplating a national emergency declaration in an attempt to bypass congressional Democrats to obtain the $5.7 billion he is requesting for the wall — though the legality of such a move is, to say the least, dubious.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Ian Millhiser is a Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. Ian clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and has worked as an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, as Assistant Director for Communications with the American Constitution Society, and as a Teach For America teacher in the Mississippi Delta. His writings have appeared in a diversity of legal and mainstream publications, including the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, Slate, the Guardian, the American Prospect, the Yale Law and Policy Review and the Duke Law Journal; and he has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News and many radio shows.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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