Democrats Pass Bills To Reopen Government, But They Won’t Go Anywhere
In a late first-day session, Congress passed a series of bills designed to reopen most of the government, but they're already 'dead on arrival' in the Senate.
The new Democratic-controlled House ended its first day by passing a set of bills designed to reopen the government, but they aren’t likely to go anywhere:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday used her first day in power to attempt to end a government shutdown that’s lurching into its third week while denying any new money for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Just before 10 p.m., the Democrat-controlled House voted to fully fund nearly all of the government agencies that have been shuttered since Dec. 22. The House also voted to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security.
But the White House and GOP leaders have made clear that the Democrats’ efforts won’t reopen the government or end the standoff over more money for the president’s border wall.
“Open up government, let’s have an adult conversation about how we protect our borders,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday evening before the House voted.
A government shutdown has never in recent history dragged on from one Congress to another, but like so many things under Trump’s presidency this conflict is one without precedent.
On Friday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and congressional GOP leaders will attend another meeting at the White House to see if they can work with the president to get out of the impasse, which sharpened after an unsuccessful bipartisan meeting with the president earlier this week. And lawmakers said urgency is beginning to build now that the shutdown stands to run into a third week over the weekend.
“As time goes on there’s going to be more and more pressure that builds from the public,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who will attend the Friday meeting along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) . “The American people, especially in a new Congress, expect us to do our work. And they will start to voice their displeasure.”
The vast majority of the House’s funding package comes directly from the Senate’s own bills. But McConnell says he won’t take up the proposals — or anything at all without Trump’s approval.
On Thursday afternoon the White House officially issued a veto threat, and the president also held an event with the National Border Patrol Council at the White House, during which the president said he’s “never had so much support as I’ve [had] in the last week over my stance for border security.”
That’s true at least as far as Senate GOP leaders are concerned. After swearing in new senators that brought his majority to 53 seats, McConnell attacked Pelosi’s plans to reopen the government and stiff Trump’s wall funding as “political theater, not productive lawmaking.”
“The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature. So let’s not waste the time. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot,” McConnell said on Thursday. He asserted that House Democrats are “using their platform to produce statements rather than solutions.”
The GOP leader raised the prospect that the shutdown could drag on for “weeks” on Wednesday, and the Senate showed no urgency on Thursday as the House prepared to pass new funding legislation.
Still, the frustration was palpable among rank-and-file members of both parties. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who wrote one of the spending bills House Democrats voted on, said in an interview she’d like to see the president endorse at least part of the plan to reopen the government.
“My goal is to get government reopened as fast as possible. And six of those bills, we’ve got agreements on and so I’d like to see those signed into law,” she said of the non-DHS legislation.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on Thursday also reportedly said a spending bill should pass to reopen the government without additional border wall funding, adding, “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.”
With the congressional leaders already feuding, the sides have at least tentatively agreed to continue talking. But Trump launched a new attack on Democrats on Thursday as the new House majority prepared to be sworn in, blaming the impasse on their political ambitions even though Trump once said he’d be “proud” to take the blame for the shutdown.
“The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election. The Democrats know they can’t win based on all of the achievements of “Trump,” so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security – and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!” Trump posted on Twitter on Thursday.
As I’ve already noted, the President has already rejected the Democratic plan to reopen the government saying that agreeing to a plan that didn’t fund the border wall would make him “look foolish.” The reality, of course, is that Trump is at least perceptive enough to realize that agreeing to this plan would take away whatever leverage he might have with respect to the wall since it would significantly reduce the scope of the shutdown, which is already limited due to the fact that several branches of the government have already been fully funded through the end of the Fiscal Year, would be limited even further to just the Department of Homeland Security. This would reduce the pressure to get the government reopened and reduce whatever bargaining power the President has left at this point. From a negotiating standpoint, I suppose this makes sense but it also makes the likelihood of any agreement in the near-term even less and less likely. Meanwhile, the shutdown drags on and is now mere days away from surpassing the 2013 shutdown in length, and quickly approaching the 21-day record set by the shutdown that lasted from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996.
As they did on Wednesday, Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with President Trump in the White House again later this morning, but it’s unclear what exactly that will accomplish. The parties are at loggerheads, and we’re approaching the point where this shutdown is no longer about the border wall per se so much as it is about politics. For Democrats, it would be a serious sign of weakness, and problematic with the base, to be seen as giving in this early in their tenure. For Trump, conceding on the wall would deprive him of one of his biggest talking points and something that has been a central part of his campaign and his Presidency since the day that he entered office. All of this portends a prolonged shutdown that could last well into January.