News, Trump Administration

SOTU: Trump’s uncompromising stances belie talk of unity

President Donald Trump (Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — President Trump implored Congress Tuesday to move past political gridlock in favor of bipartisan cooperation before he dug in on the border security fight that threatens to shut down the government yet again.

“We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before,” Trump said during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”

But while Trump opened his remarks to the now-divided Congress with a call for a new era of unity, he showed little willingness to compromise on some of his positions — including his stance on a border wall — that were central to fight that led to the last shutdown. Federal agencies could shutter yet again if lawmakers can’t reach a deal by their Feb. 15 deadline.

Democrats in North Carolina weren’t impressed by Trump’s speech. They accused the president of repeating rhetoric he’s used in the past and exacerbating the partisan divide that led to the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

Congressman David Price

Congressman David Price, who was joined in Washington by a federal worker impacted by the recent government shutdown, dismissed the speech as featuring a “hollow pledge of unity.” In a statement, Price stated that “In tonight’s State of the Union address, the nation heard President Trump, once again, deliver a hollow pledge for unity while employing lies, fear, and division to manufacture a political crisis.  As we have repeatedly and unfortunately learned over the last two years, the President’s scripted remarks are often followed by unhinged twitter rants and a discriminatory agenda that undermines our collective values and further divides our nation.”

“While President Trump once again chose fear and division as his preferred path, House Democrats will continue to advance an agenda that moves our nation forward in a united way,” the statement concluded.

In Trump’s first address to Congress since Democrats clinched control of the House in the November elections, he called on lawmakers to choose “greatness” over “gridlock.” The speech, originally slated for late last month, was delayed as Trump sparred with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the 35-day shutdown that ended in late January.

“Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis,” Trump said.“The Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our Government, protect our homeland, and secure our southern border.”

Pelosi slammed the speech as more of what the nation has come to expect from the President. In a statement, the Speaker said that “It will take days to fact-check all the misrepresentations that the President made tonight. Instead of fear-mongering and manufacturing a crisis at the border, President Trump should commit to signing the bipartisan conference committee’s bill to keep government open and provide strong, smart border security solutions.”

Despite congressional Democrats’ insistence that they won’t provide the $5 billion in funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border, Trump doesn’t appear to be budging. Read more

Defending Democracy, News

New Congress to be sworn in today…without Mark Harris

Rev. Mark Harris

When the new Congress convenes today in Washington, throngs of beaming freshmen lawmakers will pour into the U.S. Capitol for an official swearing-in ceremony, followed by swanky receptions to celebrate their arrival.

North Carolina’s Mark Harris won’t be among them.

The Republican candidate is at the center of a heated fight back home, in which state authorities are investigating claims of election fraud surrounding the 9th District seat he thought he’d clinched. Harris holds a narrow lead over Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results in the disputed race that has roiled North Carolina politics and could result in a fresh election that could drag out for months.

“Mark will not be in Washington this week,” his campaign manager, Jason Williams, told Policy Watch yesterday. “We are hopeful that we can get this resolved as soon as possible so the 9th district can be represented in Congress.”

Harris’ campaign last night announced that it will file a petition today asking a court to “immediately” certify the results, arguing that the state elections board hasn’t disclosed any information to suggest that the votes under investigation “are sufficient in number to change the outcome of the 9th Congressional District election.”

Harris was also slated to be interviewed by state investigators today, staff at the State Board of Elections told WRAL.

It’s not the week Harris had planned.

In November, McCready quickly conceded the close race to his Republican opponent, and Harris traveled to Washington for new-member orientation later that month. He had even picked out office space, grimacing as he drew an unlucky No. 76 out of 85 in the lottery for new members, Bloomberg reported.

But the elections board refused to certify the results during an investigation into allegations that voter fraud boosted Harris’ campaign. The matter is further complicated by uncertainty surrounding the state elections board, which was dissolved in late December in response to a court order. A new board is slated to be seated on Jan. 31.

Dan McCready

McCready withdrew his concession amid the probe, and appears ready to fight for the seat. He posted a video to his Twitter account on New Year’s Day accusing Harris of failing to cooperate with the board’s investigation. “My New Year’s resolution: Let’s bring democracy back to North Carolina,” McCready said.

Amid the uncertainty in the Tar Heel State, House Democratic leadership made it clear that Harris wouldn’t be joining their ranks when the new Congress was sworn in.

“Given the now well-documented election fraud that took place in NC-09, Democrats would object to any attempt by Mr. Harris to be seated on January 3,” incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said last week in a statement.

“In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress.”

Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a Democrat who represents North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, told Policy Watch yesterday that North Carolina’s lawmakers are watching the race “very closely.” He lamented the fact that the elections board was dissolved before it could settle the dispute. Read more

News

It’s official: Congressman Walter Jones won’t run again in 2020

North Carolina congressman, Walter  Jones, who has represented the 3rd District in the eastern part of the state since 1995, made it official today that he will not seek reelection in 2020. Jones had indicated during his 2018 primary race that he intended to serve only one more term.

His chief of staff, Joshua Bowlen, confirmed today that Jones will step down after the 116th Congress, which officially kicks off tomorrow.

“Congressman Jones has made it clear for the last year that this upcoming Congress will be his last,” Bowlen told NC Policy Watch in an email.

Jones’ district as presently constituted is solidly Republican. President Trump won by a margin of 24 points in 2016, according to The Washington Post. Jones was unchallenged in last year’s general election.

Though Jones, a conservative and former Democrat, had generally adhered to the GOP line on most issues, he has bucked the party establishment on multiple occasions — particularly on matters of foreign policy. A March 2018 story in The Nation by veteran North Carolina journalist Barry Yeoman noted that:

In 2005, Jones renounced his vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq, and ever since he’s been a dissenting voice within the Republican Party. He has challenged three presidents on their use of force, calling on his congressional colleagues to increase their military oversight. And he has long decried the corrupting effect of big-dollar campaign contributions. “Whatever happened to honesty and integrity?” he asked me, almost as soon as I stepped into his office. “It’s gone, and it’s all because of the influence of money.”

The nonprofit newsroom ProPublica ranks Jones first among House members in voting against their own party—he’s done so almost 40 percent of the time since January 2017. That independent streak has been all the more conspicuous during the Trump administration, as his fellow Republican lawmakers scramble to make a show of party unity.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in December that Jones missed extended periods and multiple House votes in 2018 due to health issues.

Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief for The Newsroom network, of which NC Policy Watch is a member. Rob Schofield contributed to this story.