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House Dems Ready Strategy to Re-open Government Upon Assuming Control

January 1, 2019

By Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Democrats have settled on a strategy for attempting to reopen the government when they take control of the House on Thursday, aimed at ending the partial shutdown quickly -- but denying President Donald Trump the new money he wants for a border wall.

Democrats plan to pass a stopgap spending bill to fund the Homeland Security Department through Feb. 8. The bill would extend the existing $1.3 billion spending level on border fencing and other security measures, far short of the $5 billion Trump has sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The GOP-controlled Senate passed a similar stopgap measure earlier this month, but Trump subsequently rejected it. It’s unclear how the Senate would respond if presented with the plan again. Under Democrats’ plan, the House would also pass a package of six other spending bills to fund an array of federal agencies that have been shuttered since Dec. 22, including the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Justice Departments. Hundreds of thousands of workers at those agencies and others are home on furlough, facing the possibility of missing paychecks depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

Those six spending bills would be passed through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, at levels already embraced on a bipartisan basis in the Senate -- an approach aimed at pressuring the Senate to go along.

The bills to reopen government will be among the first votes cast by Democrats when they take control of the House and open the 116th Congress. The legislation was expected to be made public later Monday. Details were confirmed by two House Democratic aides speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made clear he plans to advance legislation only if it has Trump’s support.

“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign,” Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, wrote in an email Monday. Talks to reopen government have broken down and there has been no communication between Trump and Democratic leaders.

Trump remained bunkered in the White House Monday, tweeting out criticisms of Democrats.

“I’m in the Oval Office. Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall,” Trump wrote.

The construction of a wall along the Mexican border was one of Trump’s top campaign promises in 2016 and early in his presidency, and he vowed to make Mexico pay for it all. More recently, he has asked for taxpayer money to build the wall and said Mexico will indirectly pay for it later, but his aides have struggled to explain how that would happen.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is expected to be elected speaker later this week, has called the wall “immoral” and said her new majority will not pay for it. House Democrats had been considering bringing up legislation to extend Homeland Security funding for a full year, but faced opposition to that approach from liberals who believe that even existing funding for border security goes too far.

A coalition of advocacy groups including the ACLU and others sent Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a letter on Friday opposing extending funding for the Homeland Security Agency for a full year, citing concerns that such an approach “clearly funds Trump’s wall project and must be rejected.”

A spokeswoman for the ACLU said Monday that the group supports extending Homeland Security funding only to Feb. 8, an approach that would allow newly empowered Democrats more latitude in determining the agency’s budget for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year.

“It’s incredible how Democrats can all use their ridiculous sound bite and say that a Wall doesn’t work. It does, and properly built, almost 100 percent! They say it’s old technology -- but so is the wheel. They now say it is immoral- but it is far more immoral for people to be dying!” Trump wrote in another tweet.

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