Back to the Drawing Border
If the Democrats wouldn’t talk, then President Trump decided to go to the people who would: the men and women protecting America’s border. Thursday afternoon, the president touched down in Texas for his first on-the-ground briefing since last March. This time around, things are different. Stuck in a 20-day government shutdown with no liberal cooperation in sight, the message is obvious — for the country to get a wall, Republicans will have to be one.
So far, the White House shows no signs of cracking. Wednesday, when “Fox & Friends’” Steve Doocy said the president’s supporters don’t want him “to cave,” Trump raced to Twitter to assure them, “I won’t!” If Democrats think the border is a problem, then they’ll come to the negotiating table and prove it. Until then, the president says, the federal government will remain partially closed. As far as he’s concerned, this administration doesn’t waver — and an issue of national security isn’t the place to start.
Meanwhile, the media is hoping the GOP isn’t nearly as determined as its leader. After a handful of Republicans voted for a non-wall Treasury bill, the rumors started flying that some party members were wobbling. Not true, Trump fired back. “There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise. The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!” he tweeted. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) agreed. “Quite frankly, I see no wavering,” Meadows said. Another House member backed him up, telling the Washington Post that, contrary to the rumors, conservatives are “dug in.” “We really believe in our souls that we have a responsibility to the American people to secure the border.”
Elsewhere, Democrats keep making the same illogical point — that border walls are immoral. That’s interesting, the Wall Street Journal points out, since these same liberals (Pelosi and Schumer included) voted to spend $1.6 billion on a wall last March! “Were they immoral?” “Was Senator Barack Obama mistaken in 2006, when he praised the passage of legislation providing for ‘better fences and better security along our borders?’ Was President Obama engaged in a ‘vanity project’ in 2009 as he oversaw construction of roughly 133 miles of fence, barriers, and wall along the border?”
Let’s be honest. The Left’s objections aren’t about cost or morality or efficiency — they’re about the president. “The Democrat platform in 2008 basically supports virtually everything the Republican President of the United States said today,” Mark Levin argues. “The American people haven’t changed. The Republican Party hasn’t changed. The Democrats for political reasons and power reasons, they’ve changed — and they want to drag us all off the cliff with them.”
Others, like Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) are trying to ignore the cold, hard facts. On Tuesday night, the president made a point of explaining that not everyone is coming to America with good intentions. “In the last two years,” he explained, “ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.” That upset Castro, who thinks it’s an unfair characterization of the illegal population. “These people, unlike what the president says, are not coming to harm Americans.”
He’s right. Not everyone crossing the border illegally is a physical threat. But just because these migrants don’t intend to harm America doesn’t mean they haven’t. Our country spends $200 billion on illegal immigration every year. That’s $70,000 per illegal (and seven times the cost of deporting them). Suddenly, a $5.7 billion wall doesn’t sound so expensive. And while the media likes to focus on the unfortunate federal workers being treated like hostages by the Democrats, most of whom will eventually get paid, what about the money that taxpayers are shelling out that they’ll never get back? The trillions of dollars in social services, housing, and tighter immigration enforcement — all because these people refused to go to a legal point of entry.
As President Trump said, “This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice… When I took the Oath of Office, I swore to protect our country. And that is what I will always do, so help me God.”
Originally published here.
An Obamacare Fee-for-All
If anyone has a full mailbox, it’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Republicans and Democrats are keeping the agency chief in reading material with a set of dueling letters over a new rule that would finally bring some transparency to the taxpayer-funded abortion debate. And that’s exactly what the far-Left doesn’t want!
On Tuesday, HHS moved one step closer to finalizing a rule that wouldn’t change the fact that Obamacare customers are billed for abortion, but it would change how they’re billed. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Under Barack Obama, the government did everything it could to keep consumers in the dark about their plans. They even got insurers involved in hiding the fact that there was even an abortion surcharge in the first place! Because of that secrecy, most Americans who were shopping for a plan on the exchange had to wait until they got their statement of benefits until they knew if the policy violated their beliefs. And even then, they might not even know how much the abortion surcharge was!
Thanks to Secretary Azar, the Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a rule that would separate out the abortion surcharge in the billing process. As former Senator Ben Nelson (R-Nebr.) explained, “You have to write two checks: one for the basic policy and one for the additional coverage for abortion.” Until Congress can overturn Obamacare, HHS wants to give citizens as much information as possible. And under this president that means insurers have no choice but to come clean about the abortion surcharge.
In two letters to Secretary Azar, led by Freshmen Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Republicans praise HHS for moving forward with the regulation. “Congress clearly required a distinct payment and the current regulations instead allow the abortion surcharge to be hidden within the broader premium. This proposed rule provides important and long overdue protections.” Of course, they point out, the real goal is overturning Obamacare and never forcing taxpayers to cover abortion again.
Democrats, meanwhile, led by Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) are horrified at the thought of shining a light on the abortion surcharge and complain, in their own letter to HHS, that this rule is “intended to make it harder for women to access abortion care and to prevent insurers from offering abortion coverage.” They insist that the separate billing will confuse Americans and increase the cost of selling the plans. But in the end, that’s just cover for their real fear — and our hope — which is that more people will opt out of abortion-covering plans to begin with!
Originally published here.
Religious Freedom: Let the Gains Begin
Twenty years ago, when the first ambassador at large for religious freedom was confirmed, Robert Seiple joked later, “It was just me and the vacuum cleaner.” And, he laughed, “I was grateful for that sweeper, because that office needed it!” Thanks to President Trump, America’s come a long way since that barebones operation in 1999. That’s because, under this administration, religious freedom isn’t just part of the agenda. In some places of the world, it’s the agenda.
After eight years of Barack Obama — when the government’s only position on faith was to suppress it — most people around the world wondered if America would ever find its voice on religious liberty again. Two years into this administration, they’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that Donald Trump hasn’t just met the expectation for America’s involvement abroad, he’s surpassed it.
In a new Christian Science Monitor column, Christa Case Bryant talks about how the president may have permanently changed the way future administrations treat religious liberty. “I think there’s been a sense among conservative religious groups … that recent administrations have just ticked the box of the IRFA rather than genuinely embracing the agenda and investing in it,” says Peter Mandaville, a former senior adviser of the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. “I think it’s felt that with this administration, they’ve had an unprecedented opportunity to push this issue.”
When Ambassador Sam Brownback was confirmed (by a single vote), a lot of critics thought Christianity would get special treatment at the State Department. That perception changed almost immediately, as Sam got to work championing a diverse set of minorities — from the persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to the Uyghur in China and everyone in between.
And the administration’s involvement didn’t stop with Ambassador Brownback. Leaders at the highest levels of government — from President Trump to Vice President Mike Pence and later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, started making international religious liberty a topic in other conversations about trade and national security. Now, after two years of skepticism, people on both sides of the aisle see Brownback — and the Trump administration by extension — as advocates for religious freedom for everyone.
There have been words (day-long seminars like the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom) backed by actions (the release of Chinese Christians and Pastor Andrew Brunson) that only solidify the president’s commitment. Some extremists will always call the protection of religious liberty a “misguided enterprise,” Bryant points out, but there are also many others who see this as one of the few areas where there seems to be bipartisan cooperation. “There are a lot of people on the Left who are interested in religious freedom, and they were happy to have had someone who would be a balance in there,” says the Rev. Johnson Cook. “I think I was a game changer.”
Just as President Trump is proving to be.
For more on just how important religious freedom is to the future of human rights, international economies, and national security, check out this publication by FRC’s Vice President for Policy, Travis Weber.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.