Ozarks Tonight: Shutdown and State of Rural America


For the Tuesday night edition of Ozarks Tonight, the president’s using the “s” word again.

President Trump said today, “I’d love to see a shutdown … If we don’t get this stuff taken care of .”

This “stuff” President Trump mentioned is an immigration reform plan, and folks in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas are talking tonight about both the weather, and about the possibility of the federal government back on ice.

The president has issued what sounds like a policy ultimatum to Democrats in Congress–come up with a deal he likes on immigration, or the government closes. But there’s more than immigration and the future of the DACA program at stake here: military spending and funding for local health clinics have members in both parties scrambling for a deal.

Indeed, Republicans in Congress are less willing to pull the shutdown trigger it seems, and, predictably, they blame both the other chamber and party for the problem. Here’s what House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say.

“I urge the senate democrats to stop their filibuster and provide our men and women in uniform the resources that they need, the support that they need.”

Senator Chuck Schumer had this response.

“We support an increase in funding for our military and our middle class. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

The word is that despite the sniping, members of both parties want to avoid a shutdown for one simple reason: no one can really predict which side will end up getting more of the blame. Though Republicans have majorities in the house and senate and one of their own in the oval office, the Senate’s rules keep the Democrats very much in the negotiating game, and the public knows it. The so-called Schumer shutdown last month has not been lost on democratic strategists.

Tuesday night, House Republicans passed a funding deal through March 23rd at current spending levels, but the Senate wants to increase funding for the military and other discretionary spending items.

Then there’s finding a solution on the DACA program. President Trump has offered a plan for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented in exchange for billions on border security. This may be the Democrat’s best chance for a comprehensive deal that will secure residency for the “dreamers.”

And, in case you forgot, we’re now in an election year, which means both parties are going heavy on the calculations of how their behavior will play with voters in November. Local\Republican representatives like Billy Long, Jason Smith, and Vicky Hartzler should have no problem in their re-election bids, but the same isn’t true for the 25 or so House Republicans who represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democratic strategists in the Senate are also up late thinking about how to best get our own Claire McCaskill back to DC for a third term. Independent analysts consider McCaskill to be the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrat.

President Trump gave his State of the Union speech last week, and today it was Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue’s turn, but Perdue focused on the state of rural America. Now, this is more than about the issue of farm subsidies. Perdue spent considerable time talking about efforts to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico. Perdue offered,

“I believe frankly that we’ll get a better deal from both of them and preserve the benefits for all three countries”

As you might expect, president trump’s tax policies got a boost from Perdue. The secretary expects lower taxes and regulations to be a net benefit to farmers.

But a vexing concern across rural America is opioid abuse.

Arkansas representative Rick Crawford made a blunt assessment.

“We don’t have the resources in rural America to address that on a large scale.”

Crawford thinks the federal government will come up with the resources to deal with opioids, but there’s no doubt that money is not the only facet of addressing the epidemic.

At some point, it will come down to individual level decisions about overcoming addiction.

Success will also involve blunting the negative effects drug use have on families and communities.

And the Ozarks are no exception in dealing with this challenge. President trump has called opiate addiction a national emergency, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that the state of rural America hangs in the balance.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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