The newly Democratic-controlled House tonight passed legislation that would reopen the federal government, drawing a swift veto threat from President Trump, while two GOP senators seem prepared to break with their party.
Democrats voted to pass a measure that would provide stopgap funding for the Department of Homeland Security, reopening the department but denying President Trump the more than $5 billion he’s demanding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Democrats then passed another set of bills that would reopen other federal agencies that have been closed since the partial shutdown began on Dec. 22.
The measures would need support from the Senate and the president’s signature to end the shutdown, but Trump has promised a veto and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated today that the Senate will only take up government spending legislation that Trump supports.
Despite the broad GOP opposition, two Senate Republicans who are up for reelection in 2020 broke with Trump and party leaders, saying it was time to end the impasse even if Democrats won’t approve border funding.
The comments from Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — the only Senate Republicans running for reelection in states Trump lost — pointed to cracks within the GOP that could grow as the shutdown nears the two-week mark.
McConnell’s stance also prompted angry attacks today from new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats, who insisted they were trying to give Republicans a way out of the standoff by passing two pieces of legislation: one a package of six spending bills that were negotiated on a bipartisan basis in the Senate and would reopen nearly all the federal agencies that have been shuttered since before Christmas, and the second a stopgap spending bill through Feb. 8 covering only the Department of Homeland Security.
The strategy could allow Senate Republicans to reopen most of the government while setting aside the debate over the border wall. But thus far, because of Trump’s opposition, party leaders have refused.
As the impasse dragged on, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said for the first time that the stalemate could continue for “months and months.”
A funding lapse of that length would have compounding consequences for the government’s ability to provide promised services and for the approximately 800,000 federal workers who are either furloughed at home or working without any guarantee of getting paid.
Comments from the most politically vulnerable members of McConnell’s caucus suggested discomfort with the majority leader’s approach, and a desire for a quick resolution to the shutdown.
“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said, as the 116th Congress got underway with pomp and ceremony on both sides of the Capitol.
Even if the legislation doesn’t have the border money Trump wants, Gardner said, “We can pass legislation that has the appropriations number in it while we continue to get more but we should continue to do our jobs and get the government open and let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.”
Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, also indicated support for an element of the Democrats’ approach.
“I’m not saying their whole plan is a valid plan, but I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go and on which we’ve achieved an agreement should be held hostage to this debate over border security,” said Collins.
Nevertheless, Trump showed no sign Thursday that he was going to budge.
“Without a wall you cannot have border security,” Trump continued. “It won’t work.”
Top congressional leaders plan to meet with Trump at the White House Friday, in a repeat of a meeting they had on Wednesday. But so far there are no signs of a breakthrough or any movement.
Attribution:The Washington Post