WASHINGTON—Another end-of-year government shutdown crisis will result because of congressional Democrats’ “single-minded obsession with impeaching the president” and their breaking of promises made in the August budget deal, according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“Last August, we had an agreement that provided a roadmap for negotiations this fall and we all promised to work together in good faith and to stay away from poison pill policy riders and other things that might derail this appropriations process,” Cornyn said in a Dec. 2 floor speech to the Senate.
Cornyn said the “bipartisan, bicameral agreement” was meant “to guide the appropriations process and to hopefully eliminate this uncertainty going into the Christmas season.”
“Unfortunately, our Democratic colleagues went back on their promises because of a disagreement on 0.3 percent of the federal budget,” the Texas Republican said. The disagreement “derailed all of the appropriations process and leaves us in our current state of dysfunction.”
The 0.3 percent Cornyn was referring to was President Donald Trump’s shift of $5 billion in military funding to help pay for construction of the new wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
The “bipartisan, bicameral agreement” that Cornyn referenced was the Aug. 4 handshake deal among congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress.
Democratic insistence on maintaining amendments designed to protect federal funding for abortions was the ultimate demand that broke the August deal against poison pills, according to Cornyn’s office.
There were widespread doubts about the strength of the agreement as soon as it was struck, especially regarding poison pills. Asked about Democratic objections to certain Republican spending policies, including border wall funding, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “Well, some are poison pills, and some are not, but hopefully, we can work all these out.”
Some progress was made between August and December, most notably agreement on spending totals for each of the 12 major appropriation bills, but Schumer made clear in a Senate floor speech delivered before Cornyn spoke Dec. 2 that Democrats still insist on numerous provisions that Republicans view as poison pills.
“Senate Democrats want to ensure that the final appropriations bills include several of our policies and priorities,” he said. “So, let me say, this is what we Senate Democrats want to make sure is in these bills:
“Significant resources to combat the opioid and gun violence epidemics, significant investment in infrastructure, significant investment in child care; funding for the Violence Against Women Act needs to be maintained, or ideally, increased—that is a Democratic priority—and there must be—must be—funding to secure our elections in advance of next year’s presidential election.”
Schumer told the Senate that “Democrats strongly oppose the president stealing money from our military families to pay for this border wall. We have fought for provisions to stop this theft, will continue to do so.”
On the impeachment issue, Cornyn said he fears it will block consideration of Trump’s proposed United States–Mexico–Canada (USMCA) trade deal and make further bipartisan progress on issues such as the budget impossible.
“With impeachment using up most of the oxygen in Washington, I’m afraid our ability to get bipartisan work done is getting smaller and smaller. If the impeachment circus makes it way to this side of the Capitol, that ability may completely go away,” he told the Senate.
“If we stick to the timeline of the Clinton impeachment, that would mean the articles of impeachment would be voted on in the House in late December, and then, literally for the first five or six weeks of 2020, the Senate would be required to sit as a jury in impeachment proceedings, a period in which nothing else can be done.”
Senators aren’t allowed to work on anything else during an impeachment trial, which would follow a House vote in favor of at least one article of impeachment. They are also required to remain in their seats listening to presentations for and against conviction, but not speaking in response.
At least 67 senators are presently required to convict and remove a president from office. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House, but the Senate fell one vote short of convicting him in 1868.
In the case of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, 45 senators voted to convict.
Schumer also demanded that “Republicans must stop claiming that Ukraine had anything to do with election interference in 2016. Repeating these claims, even speculating about them, is doing Putin’s job for him. I urge my Republican colleagues—they know who they are—to stop spreading these lies, which hurts our democracy.”
Politico reported in 2017 that “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. … And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.”
Ukraine’s effort helped the “narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected” to Russia, Politico said.
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