Fallout from Mattis Resignation as Senate Considers Nuclear Option to Pass Border Wall Funding

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WASHINGTON – Just days before Christmas, Washington typically slows down, but the city is gearing up for a government shutdown as one of President Trump’s most well-respected advisors steps down. 

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is leaving after the president’s surprise decision to pull US troops out of Syria.

“He and the president have a good relationship but sometimes they disagree,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters outside the White House Thursday.

Reaction to Mattis’ resignation has even the president’s supporters concerned about the future of foreign policy.

“Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell writes, “It is regrettable that the president must now choose a new Secretary of Defense. But I urge him to select a leader who shares Secretary Mattis’s… total commitment to America’s service members.”

The president broke the news in a tweet.

“General Jim Mattis will be retiring with distinction, at the end of February,” he wrote. “I greatly thank Jim for his service.”

In his resignation letter to the president, Mattis says, “Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

The men had butted heads on the importance of America’s international alliances like NATO. But the final straw was the president’s announcement that he’s bringing home 2,000 troops from Syria along with reports the administration is preparing to draw down half its current troop level in Afghanistan to 7,000. Even the president’s staunchest supporters criticize his Syria decision.

“We’ve got two choices to fight this war – in their backyard or our backyard,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House passed a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open through February. It includes $5.7 billion for the president’s border security wall along with nearly $8.7 billion for disaster relief.
 
Now it’s on to the Senate where it needs 60 votes to pass and Democrats aren’t budging. But some are pushing McConnell to choose the nuclear option – that is passing the legislation with a simple majority.

“Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!” the president tweeted.

“President Trump is plunging the country into chaos, throwing a temper tantrum and creating the Trump shutdown of the government,” Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Thursday.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus played a pivotal role in getting funding for the wall.

Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) led the charge, calling on the president to reject a Senate compromise that did not include funding for the border wall. 

“Mr. President, we’re going to back you up if you veto this bill,” Rep. Meadows had said on the floor of the House.

Ongoing uncertainty in Washington, along with concerns over trade with China and rising interest rates, is not the Christmas present investors hoped for. Thursday the Dow dropped to its lowest level in more than a year.
 

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