Political Notebook

Nunes, Costa, Cox react to Trump’s announcement of temporary shutdown lift

Shortly after President Donald Trump announced a temporary end to the partial government shutdown Friday after reaching an agreement with Republican and Democratic leaders, the central San Joaquin Valley’s congressional delegation offered its varied takes on the deal and the country’s path forward.

Trump was adamant that his calls for a border wall will not cease, but the government will reopen without border wall funding for three weeks as Congress negotiates a possible border security compromise.

The news elicited somewhat expected responses from Valley congressmen Devin Nunes, Jim Costa and TJ Cox.

Nunes praised the president’s actions and blamed two of his favored enemies – Democrats and the media – for many of the country’s issues, from border security to general political discourse.

Costa, a 40-year lawmaker who has grown increasingly frustrated with the increased use of scorched-earth political moves over bipartisan compromise, decried government shutdown in any form. The moderate Democrat also criticized the president, whom he said signed a deal Friday that he could have signed in December and thus negated serious hardship among federal workers and related businesses.

And Cox, the newcomer who leans further to the Left than typical Valley congressmen, released a statement pushing even harder against Trump.


Nunes, R-Tulare, appeared on The Ray Appleton Show on KMJ 580 AM/105.9 FM at noon (note: Ray Appleton is this reporter’s father).

“The president’s being extremely reasonable,” Nunes said. “He’s trying to get out every day and make the case for our border being secured.”

Nunes said he would “really like to see a complete immigration fix,” which would include a wall, an end to chain migration, programs for agricultural and technology workers and “dealing with (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) kids.”

Nunes does not expect a solution, he said, because Democrats refuse to negotiate for anything other than “full amnesty,” which is “unworkable” and would result in “total chaos.”

“They don’t care,” he said. “They’re all about getting the votes. They’ll burn anything and everything down no matter what the cost.”

Nunes referenced a recent shooting spree in his native Tulare County that left two dead, including the gunman, and several injured. The suspect, Gustavo Garcia, had a deportation notice and several other Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions on his record.

The most likely solution to border security will come from Trump declaring a state of emergency, Nunes said. He added that the president had already identified $10 billion he could reroute from agencies under his control.

Nunes also attacked the media at several intervals, as well as several of his newly elected, highly visible colleagues on the Democratic side such as Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Both are responsible for “poisoning our children” with radical Left Wing ideas, such as a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

He said the Democratic Party is now run by “a strange, socialist, fascist, communist cabal” of about 40 members, who he said use identity politics – whether a person “is black, Hispanic, Asian, a woman or LGBT” – to convince members of those groups that being a Democrat is their only option.

Nunes said if he were to restart his political career, he would be a Democrat.

“You promise everything to everyone, but someone else is going to pay for it,” he said.


Costa, D-Fresno, invited media to his downtown Fresno office shortly after his plane from Washington, D.C., landed.

“After 35 days of shutdown, the president decided this wasn’t a winning proposition,” Costa said.

Costa said that no one wins during a government shutdown, and accused Trump of creating a “manufactured” crisis before ultimately signing a deal that was first put on the table on Dec. 18, when both houses of Congress passed a bill Trump abandoned in the final hour.

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It was a likely a combination of factors – polls, pressure from federal workers including air-traffic controllers, a lack of support for his proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate – that led to Trump’s decision Friday, Costa said.

Costa said Trump claimed to be worried about security in holding out for his border wall, but he in fact made the country less secure by not paying Border Patrol agents, U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Transportation Security Administration workers tasked with keeping the public safe.

“What if something horrific had happened?” Costa asked.

Costa expressed his faith in the bicameral conference committee that will now be tasked with preparing some sort of solution that will appease Trump and therefore keep the government from shutting down again in three weeks.

He said he expects the committee will offer somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion in border security upgrades – technology updates, more staff, and perhaps the reinforcement of existing physical structures – but not an actual coast-to-coast wall, which he said is not supported either by popular opinion or law enforcement facts.

Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno gives a statement about President Donald Trump’s announcement to temporarily end the government shutdown, during a press conference at his office in downtown Fresno on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Resolving the shutdown issues will allow Congress to finally tackle key issues such as infrastructure, prescription drug costs and protecting health-care access, Costa said.

He expressed a continued frustration that, particularly in the last eight years, politicians have used the country’s budget as a bargaining chip.

“It’s irresponsible. We look like a Third World country,” Costa said. “It is our job to pass 12 budget bills before Sept. 31. It’s Congress’ top priority.”


Cox, D-Fresno, released a statement shortly after the president’s announcement.

“I’m glad that the hundreds of thousands of workers who were forced to work without pay will now receive their compensation,” he says in the statement. “But like these families, I am frustrated and angry that this shutdown happened at all.”

“The President has agreed to the same deal that was on the table more than a month ago, but in the meantime, families across the U.S. and right here in the Central Valley have been forced to make painful decisions on rationing their healthcare, paying their rent and mortgages and putting food on their tables.”

Democratic Congressmen Jim Costa, left, and TJ Cox talk about the government shutdown with a gathering of media and people affected by the shutdown during a political forum at the downtown Fresno Subway on M Street in downtown Fresno on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Cox said the shutdown will have lasting effects on these Americans for years to come.

“I am hopeful that in three weeks, the president and the Senate will not choose once again to close the government and inflict more damages on our federal workers,” Cox said.

Cox said he will continue to push his first bill, which offers no-interest loans to furloughed federal workers in the event of a shutdown.

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Rory Appleton is a fourth-generation Fresnan who covers politics for his hometown newspaper. A Fresno State graduate, he has won six first-place California News Publishers Association awards and a McClatchy President’s Award for his reporting and column writing over the last two years.