5 things for February 9: Shutdown, White House, South Korea, Syria, immigration
Posted February 6, 2018 6:18 a.m. EST
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1. Government shutdown
While you were sleeping, the federal government shut down again -- but it's on its way back. Let us explain. Everyone thought the $300 billion budget deal announced this week had solved the looming shutdown problem. But then Sen. Rand Paul stood up and complained about all that massive spending. And he talked for so long that he prevented the deal from passing by Thursday's midnight deadline, triggering the shutdown (the second one in less than a month). But then, the Senate quickly OK'd the plan, and the House approved it at about 5:30 ET this morning. So, this quickie little shutdown will be over as soon as President Trump signs the bill.
2. White House
The White House is in full-blown damage-control mode as it deals with the scandal surrounding ex-staffer Rob Porter. Chief of staff John Kelly sent out a memo last night to White House staffers, saying that "we all take matters of domestic violence seriously." But a lot of people are questioning if that's really true because Kelly reportedly knew for months about the domestic violence allegations made against Porter by his two ex-wives, yet kept him around anyway. Is Kelly's job on the line? Not likely, sources tell CNN, because the White House doesn't exactly have a list of replacements handy right now.
3. South Korea
The good Olympic vibes on the Korean Peninsula may yield a new breakthrough in relations between the North and South. There's reportedly a "good chance" Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will invite South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit the North. The invitation could come at a welcome luncheon on Saturday. And Moon could make the trip to the North "sometime this year." If it happens, it would be the first time a South Korean President stepped foot in North Korea in a decade.
What a terribly violent week it's been in Syria. It's estimated more than 200 civilians have been killed since Monday because of Syrian airstrikes (backed by Russia) on Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held area near Damascus. The airstrikes ramped up after a Russian plane was shot down over the weekend near Idlib. Activists say conditions in Eastern Ghouta, which has been surrounded by Syrian forces for more than four years, are rapidly deteriorating for the hundreds of thousands of people trapped there, who struggle with food and medicine shortages.
The Trump administration is looking at new rules that would make it harder for immigrants to get into the US or get green cards if they use certain public benefits, like Medicaid or Head Start. The plan, contained in a draft obtained by CNN, could lead to substantially higher numbers of immigrants being blocked from staying in America. A Homeland Security spokesman wouldn't confirm the plan, saying only that the administration is concerned about saving taxpayer dollars. The proposal would still need to go through a formal comment period before it could be implemented.