Exclusive: Air Force to push Congress for military housing tenant bill of rights

FILE PHOTO: Assistant Secretary of Defense For Sustainment Robert McMahon; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment Alex Beehler; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment Phyllis Bayer; Assistant Secretary of Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy John Henderson testify before Senate Armed Services subcommittees on the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in Washington, U.S. February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

By M.B. Pell and Deborah Nelson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Aiming to grant military families far greater say to challenge hazardous housing, the U.S. Air Force told Reuters Monday it will push Congress to enact a tenant bill of rights allowing families the power to withhold rent or break leases to escape unsafe conditions.

The proposed measure, outlined in an interview at the Pentagon by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, follows complaints from military families who say they are often powerless to challenge private industry landlords when they encounter dangerous mold, lead paint and vermin infestations.

“Clearly there are areas where we have issues,” Goldfein said.

Added Secretary Wilson: “That could put a little more leverage into the hands of the renters.”

The Air Force push adds to a drumbeat of reforms to emerge in recent weeks following a Reuters series, Ambushed at Home, that documented shoddy housing conditions at bases nationwide and described how military families are often empowered with fewer rights than civilian tenants.

Wilson said they are working with the Army and Navy to push a tenant bill of rights that would give military families a stronger hand in housing disputes. She wants to strengthen the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that includes active duty housing protections. As one example, Wilson proposed expanding the act to allow base families to end their lease or withhold rent if their landlords fail to correct health and safety problems.

Beyond that effort, she said wing commanders of each U.S. Air Force base have been directed to inspect all 50,000 privatized family housing units in the force’s portfolio by March 1. She cited housing breakdowns at Air Force bases including Tinker in Oklahoma, Maxwell in Alabama, MacDill in Florida and Keesler in Mississippi.

In addition, she said, the inspector general’s office will launch a review of how Air Force bases respond to housing health and safety complaints.

Last week, the U.S. Army vowed to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting residents. And on Friday, the Army issued a letter directing senior commanders to conduct inspections of all housing within the next 30 days.

The military action plans follow a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month in which members of Congress sharply questioned private industry landlords and Defense Department leaders over conditions at U.S. bases.

Wilson said the Air Force is also considering working with Congress to renegotiate its contracts with housing companies to allow the service to withhold all incentive fees from low-performing landlords.

(Additional reporting by Joshua Schneyer. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

Trump says he’ll declare emergency on U.S.-Mexico border

A U.S. Border Patrol agent listens from the front row as President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border during remarks about border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Roberta Rampton and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday announced he would declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a move Democrats vowed to challenge as an unconstitutional attempt to fund his promised border wall without approval from Congress.

“I’m going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said from the Rose Garden of the White House.

“We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

The president said he would sign the authorizing paperwork later in the day in the Oval Office.

Trump was also expected on Friday to sign a bipartisan government spending bill approved by Congress on Thursday that would prevent another partial federal government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday morning.

The bill, which contains no money for his wall, is a defeat for Trump in Congress, where his demand for $5.7 billion in barrier funding yielded no results, other than a record-long, 35-day December-January partial government shutdown that damaged the U.S. economy and his opinion poll numbers.

Reorienting his wall-funding quest toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency could plunge Trump into a lengthy battle with Democrats – and divide his fellow Republicans.

Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent the transfer of funds from accounts Trump likely would target to pay for his wall.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

The president acknowledged that his order would face a lengthy legal challenge. “We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” Trump said.

Trump has argued the wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs streaming across the southern border despite statistics that show illegal immigration there is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments are likely smuggled through legal ports of entry.

At Friday’s White House event, a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants preceded Trump into the Rose Garden. He cited their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including $600 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund and $3.5 billion from a military construction budget.

Trump on Friday estimated the order could free up as much as $8 billion to construct the wall.

The funds would cover just part of the estimated $23 billion cost of the wall promised by Trump along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border with Mexico.

The Senate Democrats’ bill also would stop Trump from using appropriated money to acquire lands to build the wall unless specifically authorized by Congress.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton Morgan; additional reporting by David Morgan, Steve Holland, Susan Cornwell, Makini Brice and Eric Beech; Writing by James Oliphant, Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump leaves options open on deal to prevent government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump listens next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump left his options open on Wednesday over whether to sign a funding deal that would avert another partial government shutdown but leave him short of the money he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The Republican president said earlier this week he is not happy with a compromise thrashed out in Congress and has not ruled out a possible veto of the legislation.

But a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday that Trump would likely back the bipartisan deal, even if it only gives him $1.37 billion for border fencing rather than the $5.7 billion he is seeking to help build the wall.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration was waiting until it is clear exactly what lawmakers are proposing.

“We want to see what the final piece of legislation looks like,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. “It’s hard to say definitively whether or not the president is going to sign it until we know everything that’s in it.”

Another White House spokeswoman, Mercedes Schlapp, told CNN that lawyers were reviewing the administration’s options should Congress not provide Trump’s demanded money for the wall, a signature campaign promise in his 2016 election win.

With a Friday night deadline looming before government agencies begin closing for lack of funding, senior congressional Republicans have urged Trump to back the deal.

They have little appetite for a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown in December and January – the longest in U.S. history -which closed about a quarter of the federal agencies and left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.

But Trump has come in for criticism from the right for wavering on support for the border wall, which the administration says will cut illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“Trump talks a good game on the border wall, but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday. Trump abandoned a planned compromise on funding for the wall in December after similar criticism.

OTHER OPTIONS

The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects along the southern border. CNN, citing the White House, also said Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.

The president previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall — a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives could vote as soon as Wednesday evening, a senior aide said, despite not yet having produced a written copy of the agreement reached by congressional negotiators on Monday night.

The accord must also be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and signed by Trump by midnight on Friday to prevent a shutdown.

The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.

Congressional sources said the deal includes $1.37 billion for new border fencing, about the same as last year – along 55 miles (90 km) of the border – but not the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the wall.

Democrats say Trump’s planned wall would be expensive, ineffective and immoral.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

Congress negotiators struggle to reach border security deal

FILE PHOTO: Construction on the border wall with Mexico (top) is shown in New Mexico near Sunland Park, New Mexico, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With little time remaining, congressional negotiators on U.S. border security funding have not settled the hot-button issues they hope to resolve, as some liberal Democrats potentially complicated their work by pressing for cuts in homeland security spending.

Congressional aides on Monday said that while constructive negotiations were held by staffers over the past weekend, it is now up to the lawmakers themselves to tackle the thorniest disagreements before a Feb. 15 deadline.

Seventeen Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives are tasked with finding a compromise border security deal with the allocation of Department of Homeland Security funds through Sept. 30.

The toughest unresolved disputes include the type of new physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, if any, as President Donald Trump demands $5.7 billion for a wall that most Democrats and many Republicans oppose as wasteful and ineffective.

Other difficult questions, according to the aides, including whether to increase or cut funds for immigrant detention beds and the numbers of immigration law-enforcement agents and immigration judges.

Democrats had been backing legislation providing up to $1.6 billion for additional fencing on some parts of the southwestern border, far below Trump’s request for a wall that he originally envisioned as a 2,000 mile (3,200 km) concrete barrier.

But new fencing money was not included in an initial proposal Democrats sketched out last week, which did, however, call for a $589 million increase in DHS’s budget.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters she agreed with sentiments expressed in a letter circulated by four members of that group, which seeks Department of Homeland Security funding cuts.

Dated Jan. 29, the letter said the Trump administration had “abused their authority and the fidelity of public resources,” with initiatives that included separating immigrant children from their families. One of the signatories was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, part of a new crop of Democrats swept into office this year on a strong liberal platform.

Trump has argued that additional DHS funding was necessary to stop illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants, touting a massive wall as the linchpin.

He has threatened to either let several federal agencies shut down for the second time this year if no deal is reached, or declare a “national emergency” that he says would allow him to build the wall with already-appropriated funds not necessarily related directly to border security.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Trump to meet lawmakers at White House as shutdown enters 25th day

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a "roundtable discussion on border security and safe communities" with state, local, and community leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will meet members of Congress at the White House on Tuesday as the partial U.S. government shutdown enters a 25th day without resolution amid a standoff over border wall funding.

Trump is scheduled to host the lawmakers for lunch, according to his public schedule, which did not say who was attending. Moderate House Democrats were invited, CNN and Politico reported.

Representatives for the White House and congressional leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither Trump nor Democratic leaders in Congress have shown signs of bending on wall funding but the Washington Post on Monday reported a new bipartisan group of U.S. senators is searching for an agreement that could help end the partial shutdown.

Trump, who has demanded $5.7 billion from Congress to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, on Monday rejected a call by fellow Republicans to temporarily reopen the government while talks continue on border security issues.

He campaigned in 2016 on a promise of building a wall to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking and more recently raised the possibility of declaring a national emergency to go around Congress to secure funding for the wall. In recent days, however, he has said that he would prefer Congress to act.

Democrats, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives this month, have rejected the border wall but back other border security measures.

House Democrats have passed a number of bills to fund the roughly one-quarter of federal operations that have been closed, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said the chamber will not consider legislation that Trump will not sign into law.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called on McConnell to move forward, suggesting that Congress go around the president.

The partial shutdown is the longest in U.S. history and its effects have begun to reverberate across the country.

Longer lines have formed at some airports as more security screeners fail to show up for work while food and drug inspections have been curtailed and farmers, stung by recent trade spats, have been unable to receive federal aid.

The shutdown began on Dec. 22 and its impact is worrying some on Wall Street. Roughly 800,000 federal employees are feeling the financial sting after missing their first paycheck last week, a loss of income expected to have ripple effects.

Speaking on CNBC, Delta Air Lines Inc Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said the partial shutdown will cost the airline $25 million in lost revenue in January because fewer government contractors are traveling.

Other U.S. airlines also are not able to open new routes or use new airplanes because they need certification from federal officials who are furloughed.

A number of companies, already concerned about a global economic uncertainty, also have urged Republicans and Democrats to end the stalemate in Washington.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)

Trump, Democrats dig in over ending government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters about border security in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and congressional leaders gathered at the White House on Friday to try to end a 2-week-old partial U.S. government shutdown but all parties were entrenched over his demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about a quarter of the federal government as Trump withholds his support for new funding until he secures the money for the wall that he promised to construct during his election campaign.

The wall, Trump has argued, is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border. When he ran for president in 2016, Trump vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.

Democratic congressional leaders arrived at the White House for the meeting with Trump but it was unclear how much progress might be made.

It is the first showdown between Trump and Democrats since they took over the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday after victories in last November’s elections.

“The president isn’t going to back off,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters before the talks began.

The Senate on Friday adjourned until Tuesday afternoon in a sign that the shutdown would likely not end before then.

Ahead of the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to separate the issue of the wall and government funding and called on Trump and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to reopen agencies as border talks continue.

“The wall and the government shutdown really have nothing to do with each other,” Pelosi, who has rejected any funding for what she has called an “immoral” border wall, said at an event hosted by MSNBC.

About 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or are working without pay because of the shutdown.

It is showing signs of straining the country’s immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.

Trump continued to promote the wall in tweets to keep the pressure on Democrats on Thursday even as they gained significant power with their takeover of the House at the start of a new Congress.

TRUMP LETTER

Trump sent a letter to all members of Congress on Friday “on the need to secure our borders,” the White House said.

“Absolutely critical to border security and national security is a wall or a physical barrier that prevents entry in the first place,” Trump wrote.

Late on Thursday, the House passed two Democratic bills to immediately reopen government agencies for varying lengths of time, despite a White House veto threat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has rejected the House effort saying the president would not sign into law, although the Senate last month approved identical legislation.

“We’re in the same place … Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote in either house of Congress,” McConnell said, speaking on the Senate floor Friday morning.

But he may face pressure from within his caucus from vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2020.

“We should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” U.S. Senator Cory Gardner told The Hill on Thursday.

His colleague Susan Collins also called for the Senate to pass the funding bills, while several other Republicans urged an end to the shutdown, the Hill and New York Times reported.

Pelosi on Friday urged McConnell to bring the measures up for a vote. “The president can sign or not but he should never say, ‘I’m not even going to put it on the president’s desk,'” she told MSNBC, noting Congress can pass bills without Trump’s support.

Legislation can become law with a veto-proof majority of lawmakers’ support or if the president does not sign it or veto it within 10 days.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday suggested that in exchange for the wall, the White House could work with Democrats on so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children – an idea Trump had rejected.

“It’s being talked about,” Pence told Fox News.

Democrats back other border security measures aside from the wall, and their two-bill package passed Thursday includes $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items such as technology and cameras.

In a Dec. 11 meeting with Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government over the security issue and would not blame Democrats. He has since said they are responsible.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll last week showed that 50 percent of the public blame Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blame Republican lawmakers, against 32 percent who blame Democrats.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott)

FEMA reverses decision to stop issuing new flood insurance policies

A mailbox is partially submerged by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Conway, South Carolina, September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill. REUTERS/Randall Hill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Friday it will resume issuing new flood insurance policies during the partial U.S. government shutdown, reversing a decision announced two days ago.

FEMA, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, said it was rescinding guidance issued on Wednesday that it would not be able to sell new policies during the shutdown unless Congress passes legislation reauthorizing the program.

“As of this evening, all NFIP insurers have been directed to resume normal operations immediately and advised that the program will be considered operational since December 21, 2018, without interruption,” FEMA said on its website.

The National Association of Realtors estimated the decision not to issue new policies could have disrupted up to 40,000 home sales each month.

The flood insurance program insures about 5 million homes and businesses.

The federal government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22 because of an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion in taxpayer funding for a proposed border wall.

(Reporting by Eric Beech, editing by G Crosse)

How partial shutdown of U.S. government could play out

FILE PHOTO: Clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol at the start of the third day of a shut down of the federal government in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A partial U.S. government shutdown was widely expected to continue after Congress reconvenes on Thursday, with lawmakers split over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion in taxpayer funding for a proposed Mexican border wall.

The Senate and the House of Representatives were set to meet at 4 p.m. EST on the sixth day of the shutdown and resume debating ways to end it. That will include Senate consideration of a measure already approved by the Republican-controlled House that meets Trump’s wall-funding demand.

For that bill to move forward in the 100-seat Senate, it would need 60 votes. Republicans have only 51 seats, so they will need to try to persuade some Democrats to back the measure.

But Democrats largely oppose Trump’s proposed wall, which he had initially said would be financed by Mexico. They have offered support for $1.3 billion in general border security funding. It was not clear if some compromise could be struck between that offer and Trump’s demand.

Over the weekend, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said the White House had made a counter-offer to Democrats on border security. Media reports said Vice President Mike Pence had proposed $2.1 billion in funding.

Last week Trump said his administration was prepared for a lengthy shutdown.

After weeks of failed talks between Trump and congressional leaders, parts of the U.S. government shut down on Saturday, affecting about 800,000 employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce and other agencies.

Most of the federal government, which directly employs almost 4 million people, is unaffected. The Defense, Energy, Labor and other departments are funded through Sept. 30.

Even agencies that are affected never totally close, with workers deemed “essential” still performing their duties.

“Non-essential” federal workers at unfunded agencies are on furlough and staying home. Both they and essential employees will not get paychecks after December until the shutdown ends.

“We continue to believe that it is unlikely that Congress will come up with a deal to end the current partial shutdown until well into January,” financial firm Height Securities said in a commentary note on Wednesday.

The 435-seat House was set to reopen on Thursday but on Jan. 3, the 2017-18 Congress will be replaced by the 2019-20 Congress and control of the House will switch to the Democrats from the Republicans. At that time, Representative Nancy Pelosi is expected to take over as House speaker.

She has vowed swift action to fully reopen the government. Barring some sort of deal in the interim, House Democrats expect to vote on a funding bill on Jan. 3, a Democratic aide said.

In the new Congress, Senate Republicans will increase their number of seats to 53 but still will need Democratic support to pass any legislation requiring a 60-vote majority.

Details of the upcoming House bill were unclear but it was unlikely to include wall funding, like an earlier Senate measure. If such a bill were to pass the House and again win support in the Senate, it would then go to Trump.

At that point, he could face a politically difficult choice – back down on his full wall-funding demand or veto the bill and single-handedly extend the partial shutdown.

If he chose the latter, putting his personal stamp on the shutdown, Congress might then move to override his veto, but that would take a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House, a challenging hurdle for lawmakers.

(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Morgan; Editing by Richard Chang and Bill Trott)

Standoff over Trump border wall puts U.S. Congress in budget ‘pickle’

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol is pictured in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Congress, embroiled in a feud over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, have only five days to reach a deal before a partial government shutdown could leave about a quarter of the federal workforce without paychecks.

Trump has demanded $5 billion as a down payment on construction of a huge wall that he argues is the only way to keep illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing into the United States, again pushing the proposal in an early morning tweet on Monday. Democrats and some Republicans argue there are less costly, more effective border controls.

FILE PHOTO: Workers on the U.S. side, paint a line on the ground as they work on the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

FILE PHOTO: Workers on the U.S. side, paint a line on the ground as they work on the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The money Trump wants is only a small fraction of the roughly $450 billion Congress was poised to approve – before the latest battle over the proposed wall – to fund several agencies which will otherwise run out of money on Dec. 21.

Large swaths of the government already are funded through next September, including the U.S. military and agencies that operate public healthcare, education and veterans’ programs.

Several Republican and Democratic congressional aides on Friday said there was no apparent progress being made toward resolving the standoff, after Trump and leading congressional Democrats battled each other on Tuesday in front of television cameras in the White House Oval Office.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Since then, a senior House Republican aide said his party was “in a pickle” over how to keep the government open.

The aide noted that Republicans, who will control both houses of Congress until Jan. 3, will not be able to muster the minimum 218 votes needed in the House to pass a funding bill if it contains Trump’s demand for border wall money, which Democrats oppose.

Agent J. Cruz of the U.S. Border Patrol looks on along the newly completed wall during U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's visit to U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton

Agent J. Cruz of the U.S. Border Patrol looks on along the newly completed wall during U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton

If funds run out on Dec. 21, the NASA space program would potentially be unfunded, along with national parks, the U.S. diplomatic corps and agriculture programs.

Similarly, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security would be vulnerable to shutdowns, although “essential” employees, such as FBI agents, airport security screeners and border patrol agents, would still report to work.

Their paychecks, however, would not be issued until the shutdown ends and Congress would have to decide whether to award back pay for them as well as any furloughed workers.

A government in such disarray might not play well for Republicans over the holiday period, especially if Americans also view images for two weeks of Trump vacationing at his exclusive Florida beach-front mansion.

“After the president’s comments earlier this week when he said he was going to own the shutdown, that sealed the deal for Democrats. There is absolutely no reason for them to cut a deal with this president,” said Jim Manley, a political strategist and former Senate Democratic leadership aide.

With the clock ticking, the House is not even bothering to come to work until Wednesday night.

For now, Democrats are waiting for the White House to signal whether it will engage on legislation that would keep programs operating, but without money for Trump’s wall.

White House adviser Stephen Miller told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program on Sunday that the administration would “do whatever is necessary to build the border wall.” Asked if that included shutting down the government, he said: “If it comes to it, absolutely.”

If not, Manley predicted the government will limp along until Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House and Pelosi likely becomes the speaker and promptly advances funding, daring the Republican-led Senate to reject it.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Leslie Adler and Paul Simao)

Republicans set resolution blaming Saudi prince for journalist’s death

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pictured during his meeting with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and officials in Algiers, Algeria December 2, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he would introduce on Thursday legislation holding Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and insisting on accountability for those responsible for his death.

Despite President Donald Trump’s desire to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, the joint resolution is backed by at least nine of his fellow Republicans in the Senate: committee Chairman Bob Corker and co-sponsors including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The measure also warns that the kingdom’s purchases of military equipment from, and cooperation with, the governments of Russia and China challenge the integrity of the U.S.-Saudi military relationship.

The measure is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate, but must also pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump, or win enough votes to overcome a veto, to take effect.

House Republican leaders declined to say whether they planned to vote on any Saudi-related legislation before Congress wraps up for the year later this month.

Among other provisions, the joint resolution blames the crown prince for Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey, calls for the Saudi government to ensure “appropriate accountability” for all those responsible for his death, calls on Riyadh to release Saudi women’s rights activists and encourages the kingdom to increase efforts to enact economic and social reforms.

And it declares that there is no statutory authorization for U.S. involvement in hostilities in Yemen’s civil war and supports the end of air-to-air refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft operating in Yemen.

The Senate is due to vote later on Thursday on a separate Saudi Arabia measure, a war powers resolution that would end all U.S. involvement with the coalition involved in the Yemen War. That measure would need to pass the House and survive a threatened Trump veto to become law.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)