President Donald Trump said Thursday he was denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a military plane for a trip to Afghanistan that was set to begin in the afternoon, a tit-for-tat retaliation that deepened the divide between the leaders and brought the government no closer to reopening. The move, apparently in response to Pelosi’s letter a day earlier suggesting the President reschedule his State of the Union address, made for high drama but little substance in the ongoing standoff over border security.
The 116th Congress was seated Thursday, with Democrats taking the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years out of power. The first order of business was electing Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be House speaker for the second time. Within hours of Pelosi taking the speaker’s gavel, the House voted to reopen the government without funding for the border wall. Mr. Trump congratulated Pelosi on her victory in a surprise statement to reporters in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon.
The US House of Representatives passed a spending bill including funds for President Trump’s border wall to keep US government agencies running through February. The bill now goes to the Senate ahead of a potential government shutdown on Friday night. The Trump administration is reportedly planning to withdraw some 7,000 troops from Afghanistan within months.
A bipartisan group of influential senators including Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and three prominent Democrats introduced legislation on Wednesday to impose ‘crushing’ new sanctions on Russia. The bill also expresses support for NATO and would require two-thirds of the Senate to vote in favor of any effort to leave the alliance.
President Trump delivered his first State of the Union speech, Tuesday, expressing his goal of unity as ‘one team, one people, and one American family.’ Trump discussed his plan for ‘down the middle compromise’ on immigration and announced Guantanamo Bay will remain open. Trump was optimistic, saying ‘this, in fact, is our new American moment.’
Congress passed a short-term deal, Thursday, to postpone partial government shutdown until later this month. The government stoppage, originally set to take place at 12:01 a.m. Saturday has now been pushed back until December 22nd. The shutdown, revolving around debates on domestic spending, immigration, and military funding, could cost the economy $6.5 billion per week.
President Trump and his conflict with Congress escalated after he threatened to shut down the government over the funding of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. On Wednesday, Trump followed up the government threat by singling out Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is up for re-election next year on twitter saying, “Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!” possibly sabotaging his chances for re-election. House Speaker, Paul Ryan played down the government shutdown by telling reporters that even if the debate remains unsolved, Congress probably would pass a stopgap extension of funding to prevent a lapse when the fiscal year ends on September 30.
Former FBI Director, James Comey, is scheduled to testify before Congress in a highly anticipated hearing on Thursday. This will be Comey’s first public discussion of the events that led to his dismissal. Trump has not tried to block Comey’s testimony according to White House officials, if the President had he may have been able to use his executive privilege but there is no knowing whether the Congress would dismiss that notion. Thursday’s testimony will reveal more information about Trump discussions.