Friday morning news: December 20, 2019

Democrat White House contenders gather for final debate of the year » Democratic presidential candidates gathered on a noticeably less crowded debate stage last night in Los Angeles. 

While the first debate of 2019 featured 20 contenders, only seven Democrats faced off in the final debate of the year.

Among the top issues debated Thursday was climate change. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

KLOBUCHAR: So what I think we need to do—get back into the international climate change agreement. I will do that on day one. 

Several candidates argued that the economy is strong, but South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg said working class Americans aren’t feeling the benefits.

BUTTIGIEG: That is not the result of some mysterious cosmic force. It’s the result of bad policy, and we’ve got to change it by raising wages and empowering workers. 

Government run healthcare, so-called “Medicare for all,” remained the most divisive proposal among Democrats. But they all agreed on one thing, President Trump has to go—next November, if not sooner. 

BIDEN: It was a constitutional necessity for House to act as it did. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden heard there. 

Among those missing the stage last night—Senator Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and newcomer to the race, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. All three are spending big on campaign ads, hoping to bolster their support and make the cut for the next debate January 14th in Iowa.

Pelosi not ready to send impeachment charges to Senate » House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that people have a—quote—“spring in their step” after Democrats voted to impeach President Trump.  

She also said she’s not sending the charges to the Senate until she learns more about how it will handle the trial. 

PELOSI: The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then we’ll know the number of managers that we have to go forward and who we would choose. 

That drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the House impeachment vote “the predetermined end of a partisan crusade.” 

MCCONNELL: It was made even more clear last night when Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate. 

Pelosi’s unexpected delay is widely seen as a play to gain leverage in trial arrangements. 

The Senate trial is expected to start in January when lawmakers return from holiday recess. 

House passes U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade » One day after impeaching the president, the Democratic-led House gave President Trump a big legislative win. Lawmakers approved a new trade deal his administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico. 

AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 385 and the nays are 41. The bill is passed. 

The United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—or USMCA for short—will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump made ending NAFTA a hallmark of his presidential run in 2016.

The Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal said the bipartisan agreement is a win for everyone

NEAL: Every once and awhile you get to participate in these it-will-never-happen moments, and I believe that this indeed is one of them.

Democrats won key concessions on the agreement, including tougher labor standards demanded by unions. It also creates processes to verify if parties are holding to environmental standards. The Senate will take up the agreement next month. 

Senate approves $1.4 trillion spending bill » Meantime, the Senate on Thursday voted to advance a $1.4 trillion government spending package to President Trump’s desk. He’s expected to sign it into law, funding the government through next September. 

The bill increases spending on both Democratic and Republican priorities while adding an estimated $4-to-500 billion to the national debt over a decade. 

Democrats scored big increases for domestic programs. While many Republicans celebrated, among other things, $22 billion dollar spending boost for the military. 

But not everyone is happy. Some Democrats say it doesn’t spend enough on domestic programs. And GOP Senator Mike Lee called the spending package “a fiscal dumpster fire.”

Police arrest 1,200 demonstrators in India » Police arrested more than 1,200 protesters in some of India’s biggest cities Thursday. That after they defied a government ban on public protests against a new citizenship law. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Thousands flooded the streets in the city of Lucknow, many holding signs decrying the law. Some threw rocks and set small fires. 

Police set up roadblocks and even shut down internet and phone services in some places in an effort to deter the angry protests. 

In the southern city of Mangalore, police fired warning shots and used tear gas and batons to scatter large groups of demonstrators. At least two people were reportedly killed during clashes with police.

The controversial law provides a path to citizenship for many non-Muslim religious minorities who are in India illegally. They have to demonstrate that they were fleeing religious persecution in neighboring Muslim-majority countries.

But the legislation does not offer citizenship to Muslims. That has sparked anger at what many see as the government’s push to bring the secular country closer to a Hindu state.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(Associated Press/Photo by Julio Cortez) The U.S. Capitol seen from the Washington Monument.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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