House Democrats pass bill to end shutdown, reopen government
Using their new majority, House Democrats passed legislation Thursday to reopen the shuttered parts of the government but Senate Republicans said the moves are a non-starter, and the White House issued a veto threat as well, signaling the partial shutdown will go on.
President Trump has called a meeting at the White House for Friday morning to see whether progress can be made on a deal now that a new Congress is seated. But the meeting will include most of the same congressional leaders who have struggled to reach a deal after Mr. Trump insisted he needed billions of dollars in new wall money as part of any funding deal.
The president previewed his argument at the White House after meeting with Border Patrol agents who said walls work.
“Without a wall, you cannot have border security,” Mr. Trump said.
But Democrats said they won’t cave, and rejected the agents’ expert advice.
“The fact is a wall is an immorality. It is not who we are as a nation,” said new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
She led the House in approving legislation late Thursday that would extend full-year funding to eight departments, and passage of one month of money to Homeland Security though without any new wall money.
The full-year funding bill for eight departments passed on a 239-192 vote, with five Republicans joining all Democrats in favor. The Homeland Security bill cleared by 241-190 with seven Republicans joining a unanimous Democratic caucus.
Mrs. Pelosi said her goal was to disconnect the border wall fight from the government shutdown, and said the bills Democrats offered were based on ones approved by senators on a bipartisan basis.
She said Senate Republicans, who still control the upper chamber, should pass the bills and force Mr. Trump to face a veto choice.
“Did they not hear about the coequal branch of government, and that the Congress sends the president legislation?” she said.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wasn’t going to bite.
“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,” he said.
Democrats are now in the same position as the House GOP was two weeks ago, when they passed a Homeland Security bill with at least $5 billion for border walls, only to see it stall in the Senate.
Mr. McConnell said at the time that only a bill that can clear 60 votes in the Senate and win Mr. Trump’s signature will earn floor time.
The White House veto threat made clear Democrats’ latest plans don’t clear that threshold.
That means the shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and reaches the two-week mark Friday, will extend into next week.
Until now, the shutdown has been mostly painless for Americans, as some departments and agencies have stumbled along on leftover money, while others are operating with essential employees on duty.
Those employees, though, are about to miss their first paychecks.
Senate Appropriations Committee staffers have calculated that some 450,000 people are working without pay, including, ironically, most of the Homeland Security Department.
Another 380,000 federal workers have been forced on furlough, including most of NASA, the National Park Service and the IRS.