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President Trump Signs $867 Billion Farm Bill, Tightening Rules for Food Stamp Recipients

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In Fox News, Paulina Dedaj reports that President Donald J. Trump signed a bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill yesterday that secures more funding to put U.S. agriculture and American farmers on top.

“We are ensuring that American agriculture will always feed our families, nourish our communities, power our commerce and inspire our nation,” the President said. The bill will improve crop insurance, disaster relief programs, and access to rural broadband, among other provisions.

Minutes before signing the bill, Trump tweeted a video of himself performing the “Green Acres” theme song at the Emmys years ago:

The bill, which the president says will provide “crop insurance” and emergency funding in “times of disaster,” also calls for “immediate welfare reform.”

“Millions of able-bodied working age adults continue to collect food stamps without working or even looking for work. Our goal is to move these Americans from dependence to independence and into a good paying job and rewarding career,” Trump said before signing the bill.

Trump refuses to back government funding deal, presses anew for border wall money

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“Therefore I have directed Secretary [Sonny] Perdue to use his authority under the law to close work requirement loopholes in the food stamp program. Under this new rule, able-bodied adults with without dependents will have to work or look for work in order to receive their food stamps,” Trump continued.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 also legalizes the industrial production of hemp, which is part of the cannabis plant.

Functional Remedies CEO Anthony Mazzotti, whose company is the maker of whole-plant, lipid-infused hemp oil products, commended lawmakers for the bill.

“We commend lawmakers for passing the farm bill, which places hemp and hemp-derived products on par with other agricultural products regulated by the USDA. It’s been an injustice that hemp oil, which does not get people ‘high,’ has been wrongly treated in the same way as addictive drugs such as heroin. And now that injustice has been corrected,” he said in a statement.

The farm bill signing comes with the U.S. facing a potential government shutdown; Trump has refused to sign a Senate-passed spending package that does not include the border security funds he’s been after, including money for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

DHS to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico in attempt to end ‘catch-and-release’

In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks in front of a newly fortified border wall structure in Calexico, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

Asylum-seekers crossing Mexico to reach the United States will now have to wait for an immigration court hearing before being granted access to the American homeland, Stephen Dinan reports for The Washington Times. “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the goal is to end the ‘catch and release’ practice that has enticed a wave of illegal immigrants to head north in recent years, convinced that they will be able to make bogus asylum claims and then slip into the shadows.”

“They will not be able to disappear into the United States. They will have to wait for approval to come into the United States,” Ms. Nielsen told the House Judiciary Committee. “If they are granted asylum by a U.S. judge, they will be welcomed into America. If they are not, they will be removed to their home countries.”

Ms. Nielsen is triggering a 1996 law that says people who cross a land border seeking entry can be sent back and made to wait.

The law has never been tried, though President Trump has long hinted at his interest in using it. He included the language in one of his first executive orders in January 2017, and advisers have been debating its use in the months since. One major reason the law hadn’t been triggered was resistance from Mexico.

Former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he would never allow it, but his term ended at the beginning of the month. New President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been more open to dealing with Mr. Trump. Mexico has agreed to allow the return of migrants and promised that it will offer protections while people wait for decisions from U.S. authorities.

“They will be entitled to equal treatment with no discrimination whatsoever and due respect will be paid to their human rights. They will also have the opportunity to apply for a work permit for paid employment, which will allow them to meet their basic needs,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said.

Mexico’s reversal may have been eased by U.S. cash. The Mexican and U.S. governments announced this week a $10 billion American investment in nation-building in Central America and southern Mexico. The money will help fund civic institutions in Central America and economic opportunities throughout the region. “I can’t overstate the significance of these developments,” Ms. Nielsen said. “We are taking lawful, unilateral action to stop illegal entry now. Mexico is taking its own appropriate actions in response. And our two countries have committed to a major regional plan to solve the crisis.”

Immigrant rights activists had feared such a deal and said it was cruel and dangerous to make migrants from Central America wait in Mexico.                       

Trump’s veto threat pays off: House approves $5.7B for border wall

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“The House voted Thursday to give President Trump $5.7 billion for a border wall, hours after Trump warned Republicans that he would veto the spending bill if it didn’t boost border security,” Susan Ferrechio reports in the Washington Examiner. President Trump met with Republicans at the White House yesterday to make his position clear. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote today.

After Trump rallied his party on the need for a border wall in a White House meeting, Republicans said the $5.7 billion is needed to secure the border and keep out dangerous migrants. “It is common sense to secure our borders and know who is entering our country,” said Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, adding that drugs moving across the border has devastated rural Maine. “The greatest Christmas gift for America is securing our borders.”

Democrats objected and said Republicans were setting up a shutdown of several federal agencies just before Christmas. “House Republicans have caved once again to Trump’s political whims,” said House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to take up the House-passed bill Friday. Senate Democrats will block it, and House Republican leaders suggested Thursday they will negotiate a compromise with Democrats. If no agreement is reached, the lack of new spending authority will force several agencies to start furloughing workers after Friday. But the bill is a win for Trump, who faced pressure from well-known conservatives all week to reject any bill that doesn’t include wall funding. Several Republicans warned that Trump would face a difficult re-election in 2020 had he caved in.

Earlier in the week, Republican leaders told House lawmakers they believed Trump would sign a bipartisan bill that excludes wall funding. But Trump, under pressure from his conservative base, called Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday, and summoned Republicans to the White House to tell them he would not sign a bill without the wall money.

The funding bill as passed by the House would keep funds flowing for about 25 percent of the federal government, including the Justice Department and Homeland Security. A temporary measure that’s currently in place expires Friday.

The rest of 2019 government funding, including military spending, was signed into law earlier this year and will continue uninterrupted, regardless of how this week’s fight ends.

Democrats say they’ll only agree to a fiscal 2018 level of $1.3 billion for border security but nothing for a wall. The House-passed bill also includes another $7.8 billion in disaster aid to states hurt by wildfires and hurricanes.

House passes criminal justice reform bill, sending it to Trump’s desk

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“Congress approved a sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform bill on Thursday, handing President Trump a major legislative victory on an issue championed by his White House,” Adam Shaw writes for Fox News. “This is a great bi-partisan achievement for everybody,” President Trump tweeted. “When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer.A wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!” he tweeted.

Passing the Senate, it had picked up the support of hardened anti-Trump Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. — who heralded the bill as a start to righting the country’s “broken” criminal justice system.

“But for the first time in a long time, with the passage of this bill into law, our country will make a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children and disproportionately harmed communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America,” Booker said.

While the bill passed both chambers comfortably, it had seen some passionate resistance from conservatives, led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who introduced amendments including one that would require victims be notified before a prisoner was released early. He had previously dubbed the bill a “jailbreak” over fears that it would release violent offenders onto the streets early.

But an array of liberal and conservative advocacy groups also rallied in support of the bill. The Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, applauded senators for putting “policy ahead of politics.” The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill was “by no means perfect. But we are in the midst of a mass incarceration crisis, and the time to act is now.”

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