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)

Shares surge to 2-month high, dollar climbs ahead of Trump speech

FILE PHOTO - Visitors look at an electronic stock quotation board at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World stocks raced to a fresh two-month high on Tuesday to keep up their fast start to 2019 while the U.S. dollar strengthened for a fourth straight session as investors awaited President Trump’s annual State of the Union speech later in the day.

With European shares posting strong gains and Wall Street opening solidly higher, MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.60 percent, rising for a sixth straight session as it hit a two-month high.

Trump was due to give his address at 2100 ET (0200 GMT), with investors awaiting indications of progress in U.S.-China trade talks and watching for signs of tensions with Democrats following a 35-day partial federal government shutdown.

The Federal Reserve’s dovish recent statement on interest rate policy, along with optimism over U.S.-China tensions, has fueled recent risk appetite, even as estimates for U.S. corporate earnings have been falling.

“Despite the State of the Union tonight, investors seem increasingly certain that we are going to avoid any escalation of the trade tensions with China and avoid another government shutdown,” said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab in Boston.

“Investors are viewing policy considerations offsetting falling earnings expectations,” Kleintop said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 168.25 points, or 0.67 percent, to 25,407.62, the S&P 500 gained 11.94 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,736.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 55.71 points, or 0.76 percent, to 7,403.24.

Shares of Esta Lauder Cos and Ralph Lauren reacted favorably to the companies’ respective quarterly reports.

Fourth-quarter earnings for companies on the benchmark S&P 500 index were on track to have climbed 15.4 percent, but profit in the first quarter is now expected to rise by only 0.5 percent, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.33 percent, as BP shares jumped after its earnings report.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, rose 0.22 percent, up for a fourth straight session, with the euro down 0.24 percent to $1.1408.

Continued recovery in investors’ appetite for risk-taking exerted pressure on safe-haven currencies, dragging the Swiss franc to an 11-week low against the dollar.

U.S. Treasury yields fell as investors started to price in the Fed’s dovish interest rate outlook amid an uncertain global economic outlook.

“Yields are consolidating around levels that are more consistent with the new position at the Fed which is … it is effectively on hold at least in the next six months,” said John Herrmann, rates strategist at MUFG Securities in New York.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last rose 7/32 in price to yield 2.6983 percent, from 2.724 percent late Monday.

U.S. crude fell 0.24 percent to $54.43 per barrel and Brent was last at $62.60, up 0.14 percent on the day.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in New York, Marc Jones in London; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Senator Sanders to ask why drug, once free, now costs $375k

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a news conference on Yemen resolution on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas .

By Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders plans to send a letter to Catalyst Pharmaceuticals on Monday asking it to justify its decision to charge $375,000 annually for a medication that for years has been available to patients for free.

The drug, Firdapse, is used to treat Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS), a rare neuromuscular disorder, according to the letter, made available to Reuters by the senator’s office. The disorder affects about one in 100,000 people in the United States.

The government is intensifying its scrutiny of the pharmaceutical industry and rising prescription drug prices, a top voter concern and a priority of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Both the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, controlled by Republicans, have begun holding hearings this year on the rising costs of medicines. Sanders is an independent who usually votes with Democrats.

In the letter dated Feb. 4, Sanders asked Catalyst to lay out the financial and non-financial factors that led the company to set the list price at $375,000, and say how many patients would suffer or die as a result of the price and how much it was paying to purchase or produce the drug.

For years, patients have been able to get Firdapse for free from Jacobus Pharmaceuticals, a small New Jersey-based drug company, which offered it through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) program called “compassionate use.”

The program allows patients with rare diseases and conditions access to experimental drugs outside of a clinical trial when there is no viable alternative. 

Florida-based Catalyst received FDA approval of Firdapse in November, along with exclusive rights to market the medication for several years. The company, which bought rights to the drug from a company called BioMarin in 2012, develops and commercializes drugs for rare diseases.

In December, Catalyst announced it would price Firdapse at $375,000 a year. 

“Catalyst’s decision to set the annual list price at $375,000 is not only a blatant fleecing of American taxpayers, but is also an immoral exploitation of patients who need this medication,” Sanders wrote in his letter.

Sanders joins other U.S. lawmakers in investigating the pricing practices of pharmaceutical companies this year.

Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in January, wrote to 12 pharmaceutical firms asking for detailed information on how they set drug prices. 

Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette wrote to the heads of Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, the long-time leading manufacturers of insulin, requesting information on why the drug’s price has skyrocketed in recent years.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Trump says may declare an emergency for wall as little headway in talks

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting to "discuss fighting human trafficking on the southern border" in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday he might declare a national emergency to obtain funding to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico because it did not appear Democrats were moving toward a deal that would provide the money.

“We’re not getting anywhere with them,” Trump said during an event at the White House.

“I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have to do that,” he added, referring to the possibility of an emergency declaration that could allow him to use funds that Congress has approved for other purposes.

His comments came a day after Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters, “There’s not going to be any wall money” in legislation to fund border security for the rest of this year.

Pelosi said funding for more ports of entry or additional border security technology was open for negotiation. She added that the 17 House and Senate negotiators working on legislation to fund homeland security for the year should decide the components of the nation’s border security.

Democratic negotiators unveiled a detailed opening position containing no money for any type of additional physical barriers on the border to control the flow of undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs. Previously they had supported $1.3 billion for new fencing and improvements to existing barriers.

Trump has said he has to have a wall for border security.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

U.S. lawmakers search for remedies as government shutdown rolls on

At the end of a stormy day, the setting sun breaks through the clouds to illuminate the White House in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate, after rejecting two shutdown-ending bills, was searching for a way to end a government closure entering its 35th day and threatening the economy, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed a second paycheck on Friday.

Republican President Donald Trump was dug in at the White House, continuing to insist on funding for a wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border, while the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which opposes the wall, had left Washington for the weekend.

On Thursday, a bill backed by Trump to end the shutdown by including $5.7 billion he wants for the wall and a separate bill supported by Democrats to reopen shuttered agencies without such funding did not get the votes required to advance in the 100-member Senate.

Afterward, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said they were introducing an amendment in the Senate to temporarily reopen the roughly one-quarter of the federal government affected by the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Senator Ben Cardin, one of the Democratic co-sponsors, said he did not think it contained any wall funding.

Trump said on Thursday that if Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer reached an agreement to end the shutdown, he would support it.

The president also said, however, that a deal was “not going to work” unless it included “a wall or a barrier.” He said one suggestion was “a pro-rated down payment for the wall.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said a temporary measure to reopen shuttered government departments and agencies must have “a large down payment on the wall.”

A spokesman for Schumer said on Thursday night that Senate Democrats “have made clear to Leader McConnell and Republicans that they will not support funding for the wall, pro-rated or otherwise.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the possibility of legislation that includes a large down payment on a wall, “is not a reasonable agreement.”

McConnell told reporters on Thursday night: We’re still talking. At least we’re talking. I think that’s better than it was before.”

The Senate was scheduled to work on Friday, but it was unclear whether it might take any action on ending the shutdown.

CNN reported on Thursday that the White House was preparing an emergency declaration that Trump could issue to circumvent Congress if lawmakers do not fund his wall.

Asked about the report, a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Nothing is off the table, but we still believe the best path forward is working with Congress on a solution to the humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border.”

An emergency declaration would almost certainly be swiftly challenged on constitutional grounds by Democrats.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)

Explainer: How U.S. shutdown over border wall fight might play out

Jocelyn Lofstrom, whose husband is a federal worker, prepares a sign prior to a protest of the partial U.S government shutdown on day 33 of of the shutdown in the Hart Senate office building in Washington, U.S., January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the 34th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats remain at odds over his demand for funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.

Trump has refused to sign any legislation to fund an array of government agencies, including the departments of agriculture, commerce, justice, interior and homeland security, unless it includes $5.7 billion for his long-promised wall.

The Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have rejected the wall as ineffective and immoral and want the government to be reopened before any further talks about border security.

As long as the stalemate continues, 800,000 federal employees are on furlough or working without pay.

The following are some possible ways the standoff might end:

GLIMMERS OF COMPROMISE

The Senate is due to vote on two measures on Thursday: Trump’s proposal to fund government agencies through Sept. 30 while paying for a wall and also providing some temporary protections for some undocumented immigrants (“Dreamers”), and a Democratic plan to reopen the government through Feb. 8 while border security negotiations continue.

Both measures are expected to be defeated. If they are, that could clear the way for a new round of negotiations between Congress and Trump.

The fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to allow the votes suggests he may be trying to persuade lawmakers of both parties to compromise. The speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, told reporters on Thursday that she was willing to meet face-to-face with Trump.

POSSIBLE WAYS TO BREAK THE IMPASSE

* Congress and Trump find a way to temporarily re-open the government under a promise of serious border security negotiations over the next month or so.

* Democrats agree to more than the $1.3 billion in border security funding they have been backing, but less than the $5.7 billion Trump wants. If Trump faces a public opinion backlash or there are signs Republican lawmakers may be abandoning him, he might have to settle for less.

* Democrats and Republicans agree on $5.7 billion in border security funding this year, but the language allows both sides to claim victory by including different ways of securing the border. Democrats insist the money will not be used to build a wall; Trump and his fellow Republicans tout the money that will include funding for various types of barriers and other tools to discourage illegal immigration and drugs.

* A “grand bargain” emerges that reopens the government, bolsters border security and also provides protections from deportation for “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Other changes to immigration law also could be included. Such a deal would fund federal programs through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, add funds for an array of border security tools without imposing tough new constraints on immigration that Trump has previously attempted.

TRUMP DECLARES ‘NATIONAL EMERGENCY’

While the possibility that this might happen has faded recently, Trump could revive his threat to declare a national emergency at any time. His rationale would be that illegal immigration jeopardizes U.S. security and he is empowered to act by redirecting existing federal funds to build the wall. Defense Department accounts could be targeted for use on the border.

Under the Constitution, Congress holds the power to make decisions about spending U.S. taxpayers’ money and using presidential powers to move funding around is almost certain to face legal challenges.

Taking this step would probably lead to prompt enactment of legislation reopening the government under the belief that Trump would sign it into law, without the $5.7 billion.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Sonya Hepinstall)

Senate plans votes to end shutdown, but solution still far off

A visitor walks by the U.S. Capitol on day 32 of a partial government shutdown as it becomes the longest in U.S. history in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate planned votes on Thursday for competing proposals to end the partial government shutdown – both of which were likely to fail – as lawmakers and the White House sniped at each other over how to break their monthlong impasse.

Just hours before the Senate was scheduled to vote, there were signs that lawmakers might consider new ideas for ending the 34-day shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for money to fund his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The shutdown has left hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed or working without pay.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters that she was willing to meet face-to-face with Republican President Donald Trump to discuss the issue.

Her comment came one day after she announced that Trump’s State of the Union speech in the House chamber, scheduled for Tuesday, would not occur until the shutdown ended, despite the president’s plans to come. Trump, who considered giving the speech at another venue, conceded late on Wednesday and said he would deliver the speech in the House in the “near future.”

Trump wants $5.7 billion for the border barrier, opposed by Democrats, as part of any legislation to fund about a quarter of the federal government.

The longest such shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 federal workers, as well as private contractors, without pay and struggling to make ends meet, with the effects on government services and the economy reverberating nationwide.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday urged furloughed federal workers to seek loans to pay their bills while adding in a CNBC interview that he couldn’t understand why they were having trouble getting by.

Pelosi denounced the comments.

“Is this the, ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of attitude or ‘Call your father for money?’ or ‘This is character building for you?'” Pelosi asked at a news conference.

She said she did not understand why Ross would make the comment “as hundreds of thousands of men and women are about to miss a second paycheck tomorrow.”

Trump had a response for Pelosi as well.

“Nancy just said she ‘just doesn’t understand why?’ Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn’t work. Our Country has a chance to greatly reduce Crime, Human Trafficking, Gangs and Drugs. Should have been done for decades. We will not Cave!” he said in a tweet.

VOTES PROCEED

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned a vote on Thursday afternoon on a Democratic proposal to fund the government for three weeks that does not include wall funding.

Its prospects looked dim in the Republican-majority Senate, although at least one conservative senator reportedly plans to back it. The Democratic-controlled House has passed similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include the wall funding.

McConnell has previously said he would not consider legislation that Trump did not support. The fact that he is willing to allow a vote suggests he may be trying to persuade lawmakers of both parties to compromise.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner intends to vote for the bill, the Denver Post said, citing the lawmaker’s spokesman. Gardner’s representatives could not be reached for immediately for comment.

McConnell also planned to hold a vote on a separate bill that includes wall funding and a temporary extension of protections for “Dreamers,” hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States illegally as children, to reflect an offer Trump made on Saturday.

Democrats have dismissed Trump’s offer, saying they would not negotiate on border security before reopening the government and would not trade a temporary extension of the immigrants’ protections in return for a permanent border wall they have called ineffective, costly and immoral.

McConnell’s calculation may be that if both bills fail, Republicans and Democrats would be convinced to seek a deal.

One possibility emerged on Wednesday when House Democratic leaders floated the idea of giving Trump most or all of the money he seeks for security along the Mexican border but that could not be used to build a wall.

Representative James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, said Democrats could fulfill Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border security with technological tools such as drones, X-rays and sensors, as well as more border patrol agents.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found more than half of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown even as he has sought to shift blame to Democrats after saying last month he would be “proud” to close the government for border security.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton; Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott)

Democrats push technology as alternative to Trump wall in shutdown impasse

A visitor walks by the U.S. Capitol on day 32 of a partial government shutdown as it becomes the longest in U.S. history in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives floated the idea on Wednesday of ending a partial government shutdown by giving President Donald Trump most or all of the money he seeks for border security with Mexico but for items other than a physical wall.

Representative James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, told reporters that Democrats could fulfill Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border security with technological tools such as drones, X-rays and sensors, as well as more border patrol agents.

Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, also said Democrats would be discussing “substantial sums of additional money” for border security as part of a possible deal. He did not say if it would amount to the $5.7 billion sought by Trump.

Trump has demanded funding for a physical wall in a showdown with Democrats that has left 800,000 federal workers without pay amid a partial government shutdown that entered its 33rd day on Wednesday.

Clyburn’s offer would be a significant monetary increase over bills previously passed by Democrats, which included only about $1.3 billion for this year in additional border security, with none of that for a wall.

“Using the figure the president put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” Clyburn said.

As congressional Democrats and Trump battle over border security and government funding, a parallel controversy continued over the president’s upcoming State of the Union address.

Trump sent a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday saying he looked forward to delivering it as scheduled on Jan. 29 in the House chamber. Pelosi had earlier asked Trump to consider postponing because security could not be guaranteed during the shutdown.

The U.S. Senate has scheduled votes for Thursday on competing proposals that face steep odds to end the shutdown.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote on Thursday on a Democratic proposal that would fund the government for three weeks but does not include the $5.7 billion in partial funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Its prospects appeared grim. The House has passed several similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include border wall funding. McConnell previously said he would not consider a bill that Trump did not support.

McConnell also planned to hold a vote on legislation that would include border wall funding and temporary relief for “Dreamers,” people brought illegally to the United States as children, a compromise Trump proposed on Saturday.

Democrats have dismissed the deal, saying they would not negotiate on border security before reopening the government, and that they would not trade a temporary restoration of the immigrants’ protections from deportation in return for a permanent border wall they view as ineffective.

Trump’s plan is “wrapping paper on the same partisan package,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

Trump, in a series of morning tweets, pushed fellow Republicans to stand by border wall, which during his 2016 campaign he had said Mexico would pay for. He was scheduled to discuss his immigration plan with local leaders and with conservative leaders at the White House.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that Trump also has made calls to Democrats.

Furloughed federal workers are struggling to make ends meet during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Many have turned to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support, or have sought new jobs.

 

(Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Roberta Rampton, Eric Beech, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

Trump says no amnesty for ‘Dreamers,’ signals support in broader deal

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on border security and the partial shutdown of the U.S. government in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Sunday his proposed immigration deal to end a 30-day partial government shutdown would not lead to amnesty for “Dreamers,” but he appeared to signal support for amnesty as part of a broader immigration agreement.

In a morning Twitter storm, Trump also said he would not seek the removal of millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States, while bashing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for turning down an offer he made on Saturday, including for Dreamers, the immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3-year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” Trump said on Twitter.

“Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

The Dreamers are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Banners outside a Catholic church in New York's Queens borough express support for "Dreamer" immigrants in New York, U.S. January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Zieminski

Banners outside a Catholic church in New York’s Queens borough express support for “Dreamer” immigrants in New York, U.S. January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Zieminski

DACA was put in place under former President Barack Obama. The Trump administration said in September 2017 it would rescind DACA, but it remains in effect under court order.

Trump did not make clear what he was referring to regarding the 11 million people mentioned in his tweet. About 12 million people are living in the United States illegally, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

In a Saturday speech from the White House, Trump offered three years of protections for Dreamers and for holders of temporary protected status (TPS), another class of immigrants from designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other strife.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed the plan as a “bold solution,” while a spokesman said McConnell would seek Senate passage of the proposal this week.

The legislation will include bills to fund government departments that have been closed during the shutdown, as well as some disaster aid and the president’s immigration proposal, a McConnell aide said. The plan will contain $12.7 billion in disaster aid, said another Senate source who asked not to be named.

But Trump’s amnesty tweet caught some Republicans off guard.

“I don’t know what the president’s calling amnesty,” Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, told ABC’s “This Week” program. “That’s a longer debate and obviously not something we can solve quickly.”

FILE PHOTO: A federal worker left unpaid or furloughed carries a free bag of groceries from Kraft Foods on the 27th day of the partial government shutdown in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

FILE PHOTO: A federal worker left unpaid or furloughed carries a free bag of groceries from Kraft Foods on the 27th day of the partial government shutdown in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Trump appeared to be responding to conservative critics who accused him of proposing amnesty and reneging on a campaign promise, which could alienate his right-wing base.

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down on Dec. 22 over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have refused to consider. Some 800,000 federal workers have been ordered to stay home or work without pay during the shutdown.

The promise of a border wall was a mainstay of Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign. As a candidate, he said Mexico would pay for the barrier, but the Mexican government has refused.

The shutdown has caused widespread disruptions.

The Transportation Security Administration on Sunday reported an 8 percent national rate of unscheduled absences on Saturday, compared with 3 percent a year ago. More than 50,000 TSA officers are working without pay.

Some airports experienced longer wait times at security checkpoints, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport closed one of its checkpoints because of excessive absences.

‘STARTING POINT’

On Sunday, a day after Trump’s DACA proposal, there appeared to be signs of movement, even as Democrats insisted the government should reopen before proceeding with talks over border security.

“What the president proposed yesterday – increasing border security, looking at TPS, looking at the Dreamers – I’ll use that as a starting point. But you’ve got to start by reopening the government,” U.S. Senator Mark Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, also said Congress should approve pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown before they miss another paycheck this week.

Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Democrats were not opposed to physical barriers on the southern border but that Trump’s changing position posed a problem for resolving the border security issue.

“I would not rule out a wall in certain instances,” Thompson said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

(Reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Susan Thomas and Peter Cooney)

On Day 28, no sign of end to U.S. partial government shutdown

Long lines are seen at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport amid the partial federal government shutdown, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the partial U.S. government shutdown hit the four-week mark on Friday, tensions mounted in Washington on either side of the standoff over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to help fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

That ultimatum, which congressional Democrats have rejected, has prevented Congress from approving legislation to restore funding to about a quarter of the federal government, which closed down partially on Dec. 22 when several agencies’ funds expired for reasons unrelated to the border.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has left town for a three-day weekend, returning late on Tuesday. The Senate was expected to reconvene on Friday, but its exact plans were unsettled.

The Republican-controlled Senate, toeing Trump’s line on the wall, has not acted on any of several shutdown-ending bills approved in recent days by the House, all lacking wall funding.

The partial shutdown – already the longest in U.S. history – seemed certain to drag well into next week, meaning 800,000 federal workers nationwide would continue to go unpaid and some government functions would remain impaired.

Any serious debate about immigration policy has deteriorated into a test of political power. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested to Trump that he delay the annual State of the Union address until after the government reopens, Trump responded by denying Pelosi and a congressional delegation use of a military aircraft for a planned trip to Belgium and Afghanistan.

Trump’s intervention stopped the trip just as Pelosi and other lawmakers were about to travel.

Pelosi’s spokesman said on Friday that the congressional delegation had been prepared to fly commercially after the military plane was revoked, but learned the administration had also leaked the commercial travel plans.

“In light of the grave threats caused by the President’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights,” Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter.

Hammill said the State Department had to pay for the commercial flight, which was how the White House knew about the travel plans that Hammill said were leaked.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied leaking the travel plans, adding, “When the speaker of the House and about 20 others from Capitol Hill decide to book their own commercial flights to Afghanistan, the world is going to find out.”

In tweets on Friday, Trump reiterated his claim that farmworkers would still be able to enter the country and stressed again his demand for the border wall, which he says is needed to stem illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Democrats have resisted the wall as wasteful and unworkable.

The House has passed short-term spending bills that would end the shutdown and reopen the government, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a floor vote on them, saying they lacked White House support.

A House Republican aide told Reuters on Thursday that no back-channel talks to resolve the shutdown were taking place.

During the week, a small group of Senate Republicans sought support for a plan to urge Trump to agree to a short-term funding bill in exchange for a debate on border security. Their efforts went nowhere.

The Trump administration worked to minimize the damage being done to government operations across the country. On Thursday, the State Department said it was calling furloughed employees back to work.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Jeff Mason and Makini Brice; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)