White House shifts from insistence on The Wall to averting Government shutdown this weekend

Developments on Day 95 of the Trump Administration:

Facing Shutdown, Trump Administration Backs Away From Wall Demand

Only 24 hours after declaring its firm resolve for funding of Donald Trump’s US-Mexican border wall — even if this risked a shutdown of the Government this weekend — the White House steps back on Monday.

A “White House official” said that Trump told conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September.

The Administration had insisted that the first $1.5 billion of funding for the 2,200-mile wall be included in the authorization of emergency funds to keep Federal agencies open after an April 28 deadline. That almost guaranteed opposition by Democrats, and possibly some Republicans, in any showdown.

On Monday, White House emphasis shifted to ensuring a deal by Friday.

“The President is working hard to keep the government open,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was “very confident” of an agreement by Friday, but said he could not “guarantee” that a government closure would be averted.

Democrats said they would agree to some new money for border security as long as it did not go towards the wall.

Some GOP Senators talked down the prospect that the project, estimated to cost $21.6 billion, would be authorized.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Lindsey Graham. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

Rob Portman said that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places”.

In addition to the immediate allocation of $1.5 billion, the Trump Administration wants an additional $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. Construction of the wall is projected to take 3 1/2 years.

Before yesterday’s shift by his officials, Trump had used Twitter to maintain his dedication to the wall:

TOP PHOTO: Donald Trump and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, April 24, 2017 (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Seeking Image of a “Win”, Trump Seeks Cut in Corporate Tax to 15%

Needing a significant legislative victory, the Trump Administration says it is pursuing a cut in corporate tax from 35% to 15%.

The proposal is likely to increase debt and set aside a long-held Republican goal of curbing federal borrowing — experts estimate it will cost $2.4 trillion over a decade.

However, White House officials said Trump will make the announcement Wednesday as part of a release of broad principles to overhaul the tax code and alter personal income tax.

With the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare withdrawn even before it reached a vote in the House of Representatives, tax reform has become the headline proposal for the White House’s domestic agenda. Trump is putting out his announcement just before his 100th day in office.

But while Trump has tried to build up an achievement of the largest tax cut in US history, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that the August target for adoption has slipped. He said the Administration still hoped for passage by the end of the year.

“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Mnuchin insisted on Monday.

However, in addition to the opposition from many Democrats, some GOP legislators have acknowledged that any big tax cut requires an increase in other revenue or budget savings.

A House Republican tax plan, endorsed by Speaker Paul Ryan, would set a 20% corporate rate and raise nearly $1 trillion by imposing a new “border-adjustment tax” on imports. The White House considered the idea but appears to have rejected it, in the face of opposition from industry groups.

Several House Republicans close to Ryan said that they were taken aback by the latest push by Trump, cautioning that he risked alienating the Speaker and his allies if they back a proposal that had weak or fragile support.

Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will meet top Republican lawmakers on Wednesday.

Xi Asks Trump for Restraint on North Korea, as US Sends Nuclear Sub to Area

Chinese President Xi Jinping asks Donald Trump for restraint over North Korea’s nuclear and missile test, but the US military announces despatch of a nuclear submarine off the Korean Peninsula.

The Trump Administration has invited all 100 US Senators for a briefing Wednesday on the escalating tension. Officials said North Korea has detained a third U.S. citizen.

Trump told ambassadors from UN Security Council members on Monday that the status quois “unacceptable”:

This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.

He did not speak of military action, but said the Council needed to take a tough line on sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear and numerous missile tests, but the tension escalated earlier this month when the US military mistakenly announced that an aircraft carrier group was being sent towards the Korean Peninsula.

In fact, the USS Carl Vinson and two other warships were moving in the opposition direction, towards the Indian Ocean for exercises with the Australian Navy. But Trump ratcheted up the announcement with the declaration that the US was sending an “armada” in a show of strength.

Pyongyang reacted by threatening nuclear war if the US attacked. Earlier this week it said that it would attack the carrier group — which eventually redeployed towards the Sea of Japan, but is still several days from the region — if the warships posed an imminent threat.

Xi told Trump that China strongly opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and hopes “all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation”, China’s official broadcaster CCTV said.

A White House readout said Trump criticized North Korea’s “continued belligerence” and the leaders “reaffirmed the urgency of the threat”.

A US defense official said a nuclear-powered, guided-missile submarine will soon make a routine port visit at Busan, South Korea.

In 1st Tariffs, Trump Hits Canadian Lumber

In its first impositions of tariffs, the Trump Administration imposes a surcharge of up to 24% on lumber from Canada.

Five Canadian lumber companies were named, with tariffs from 3% to 24%. All other Canadian firms will pay a 20% surcharge.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the tariffs were put in place after trade talks on dairy products fell through: “It has been a bad week for US-Canada trade relations.”

Trump said last week: “The fact is, NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] — whether it’s Mexico or Canada — is a disaster for our country. We can’t let Canada, or anybody else, take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.”

The Commerce Department said the lumber duties are preliminary and a final determination will be made in September.

Canadian exports of softwood lumber to the U.S. were valued at $5.6 billion last year.

Ottawa and Canadian firms immediately denounced the Trump Administration’s step.

“The government of Canada disagrees strongly with the US Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty,” Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in a joint statement.

US lumber companies have alleged since the 1980s that Canadian companies are unfairly subsidized by Ottawa. In 2002, the U.S. imposed a 30% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, which Canadian firms claimed cost 30,000 jobs.

Canada has consistently denied any subsidy of its lumber companies, a position supported by the World Trade Organization in 2004. The US and Canada reached a temporary agreement in 2006, which expired last October.

Perdue Confirmed as Agriculture Secretary

The Senate confirms former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, leaving only Cabinet position unfilled.

Lawmakers voted 87 to 11 for Perdue. The confirmation was held up because Perdue did not file ethics disclosure forms until mid-March.