Congress breaks for weekend, all but ensuring longest government shutdown in U.S. history
|Toronto Star 11 Jan 2019 at 10:28|
WASHINGTONâThe House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history, while President Trump continued his efforts to sway public opinion on the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The measure, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks with a number of Democratic committee chairs at the Capitol on Friday.Â Â (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Government workers and their supporters protest in Boston on Friday.Â Â (Michael Dwyer / AP)
The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments â but it was already declared dead-on-arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.
About 800,000 workers missed a paycheck Friday as the impasse between Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day. Without a dramatic turn of events, the shutdown would become one for the record books at midnight.
As of late Friday morning, there were no signs of serious negotiations underway. Trump took to Twitter to tout his high-profile trip to the border on Thursday, writing that âI just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!â
âThe Democrats, Cryinâ Chuck and Nancy donât know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY,â Trump wrote, referencing Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Trump asserted that without a wall â or steel barrier â âOur Country cannot be safe.â
Pelosi said Friday that Democrats have not felt any political pressure to give in on Trumpâs wall demands.
âNo, except to stay firm,â she said.
She dismissed Trumpâs negotiating style as one destined to fail. âHis version of a negotiation is do everything I want,â she said.
Other Democrats pushed back in television appearances and speeches on the floor.
âOne person is responsible for shutting down government: Donald Trump,â House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told his colleagues. He argued that Democrats are open to tightening border security but were not going to âwaste moneyâ on what he characterized as an antiquated approach advocated by Trump.
Hoyer referred to comments last month by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in which he described Trumpâs call for a border wall as a âmetaphor.â
âIf it is a metaphor for security, weâre in,â Hoyer said.
The bill passed 240-179, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in the chamber supporting it.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the exercise âa charadeâ because Senate leaders have already indicated they donât plan to vote on the bill, and Trump has said he wonât sign it.
âIf anybody thinks this is accomplishing anything, itâs not,â Cole said.
âWeâve wasted the week because our friends canât sit down and split the difference,â he added. âI donât think anyone looks particularly good in this ... This will end another sad week in this chamber.â
The bill to ensure workers receive back pay passed 411-7. All those who opposed it were Republicans.
As part of an effort to continue to build a public case for the wall, Vice President Pence spoke Friday with U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees, assuring them, âWeâre going to build that wall.â
âLet me assure you, that in a challenging time ... Iâm here to say we are with you and we are going to continue to stand with you until you have the resources and reforms to do your jobs, Pence said.
Later Friday afternoon, Trump was scheduled to hold what was billed as a âroundtable discussion on border securityâ at the White House with state, local and community leaders.
Amid the stalemate, the White House has begun laying the groundwork for a declaration of national emergency to build Trumpâs border wall.
The administration is eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, specifically a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion allocated but not spent for civil works projects, The Post reported Thursday.
The list includes dozens of flood-control projects in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and parts of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The military construction budget is also being looked at as a potential source for unspent funds, with billions more potentially available there.
The notion of declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress has divided Republicans, some of whom see it as an encroachment on congressional authority.
On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo RossellĂł strongly objected to the idea of diverting money intended for hurricane mitigation.
âNo wall should be funded by the pain and suffering of citizens of the United States who have suffered a tragedy and loss through a natural disaster,â he said in a statement.