White House aides explore border wall funding alternatives.
January 11, 2019
White House aides explore border wall funding alternatives. The White House is exploring options beyond the appropriations process for the President’s signature border wall, including asking the Army Corps of Engineers to divert funding from other projects, particularly projects related to the disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Texas, California, Florida, to pay for it. The President is reportedly still considering declaring a state of emergency to build the wall on the Southern border, and has canceled his trip to Davos in light of the ongoing shutdown. Congress is exploring its options on fighting the state of emergency, with some GOP members concerned a future Democratic President could use similar tactics to strongarm the legislature. [WSJ]
Trump hints at path to citizenship for skilled work visas. President Trump tweeted that holders of the skilled work visa common in the tech industry called H-1B should “rest assured” that reform to the program was coming, and that it would include “a potential path to citizenship.” The President’s hardline stance on immigration has thrown the program in turmoil, with employers and potential employees both concerned about visa allocations being reduced. The program grants 65,000 employment visas and 20,000 for graduates of US master’s degree programs to highly skilled workers and uses a lottery system to distribute visas to qualified applicants. [Politico]
China and the US push forward on high level trade talks. Vice Premier Liu He, USTR Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin are slated for high-level negotiations on January 30th and 31st, building on progress made by lower-level negotiators this week. The talks have taken a more optimistic tone than prior negotiations, with US exports of agriculture and manufacturing, as well as intellectual property, at issue. US negotiators are emphasizing better accountability mechanisms for Beijing, which historically has failed to substantively address policy issues such as barriers to foreign entrants in the Chinese domestic market. [WSJ]
Economic Indicators and News
Consumer prices fall for first time since March.The CPI released Friday showed a 0.1% drop in consumer prices, driven by the falling costs of gasoline, though core CPI excluding energy prices rose 0.2%, as it has for the last three months. Core CPI has increased 2.2% since December of last year, relatively in line with Federal Reserve inflation target of 2%, supporting the case for a more modest set of rate hikes in 2019. Gasoline prices fell 7.5% in December but rent and health care costs both increased by higher than average margins. [CNBC]