House Bill to End Shutdown Vacated After Voice Vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would reopen the government through February, but a dispute over procedure led the measure to be vacated shortly after passage this afternoon.

Some Republicans gathered on the House floor shouted “shame” shortly after the voice vote went final. They said requests to take a formal vote recording every member’s position went ignored.

Even before the bill was vacated, however, it was unlikely to end what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. President Donald Trump has long maintained that he will veto similar bills passed by the House because they lack money for his long-promised wall along the southern border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile has said the Senate will not vote on a bill that does not have the president’s support, effectively ensuring that the measure never gets to Trump’s desk.

“Presenting these, or similar bills, to the president without a broader agreement to address the border crisis is unacceptable,” the White House said in a statement of administrative policy on Tuesday. “The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to enact appropriations legislation that adequately addresses the crisis on our Southwest border and reopens the federal government for the American people as soon as possible.”

As the shutdown has stretched into its 27th day, a resolution to the shutdown still appears to be far away. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reiterated her unwillingness Thursday to apportion any money for the border wall, saying border-security measures going forward should instead focus on providing more workers and technology for U.S. points of entry.

Citing stories of federal employees struggling with medical bills and other expenses as they miss paychecks, Pelosi said she hopes the compounding economic and personal toll of the shutdown will bring Trump down from his position.

“Even the president’s own people are saying that GDP will not grow as long as this shutdown is there and that means that the president’s insistence on the wall is a luxury the country can no longer afford,” Pelosi said in a press conference Thursday.

On day 26 of the partial government shutdown, Senate Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., assemble outside the Capitol holding photographs of their constituents affected by the impasse between Congress and the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Once-regular meetings between the White House and congressional leadership have stopped. Pelosi referred Thursday to the most recent sit-down as a “set-up,” as Trump stormed out of the meeting when Pelosi would not commit to money for the wall even if he agreed to reopen the government.

Yesterday, Pelosi withdrew her invitation for Trump to deliver the State of the Union address at the end of the month, saying he should only come to Congress after the shutdown has been resolved. Though the speaker said she made the decision due to “security concerns,” she said Thursday that what she didn’t want is security personnel working the event without pay. The Homeland Security Department has insisted that the shutdown would not stop federal agents from providing security during the address.

The House had been scheduled to take a recess next week, but it opted to cancel the break so members will stay in Washington, working on legislation. Pelosi said she has not heard from Trump since withdrawing the State of the Union invitation.

Trump broke his silence on Thursday afternoon, telling Pelosi in a letter he would postpone her planned official overseas trip in light of the shutdown. Trump called the trip to Belgium, Egypt and Afghanistan a “public relations event,” and suggested she could always fly commercial if she still wanted to make the trek.

“I look forward to seeing you soon and even more forward to watching our open and dangerous southern border finally receive the attention, funding and security it so desperately deserves,” Trump wrote.

As stories mount of federal workers struggling to make ends meet, a group of House Democrats unveiled a bill Thursday that would provide interest-free loans to federal employees who are receiving zero-balance paychecks during the shutdown.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Calif., would allow impacted workers to take out one loan of up to $6,000 on which they would pay no interest or fees. When the government reopens, federal agencies would garnish the paychecks of employees who took out loans until they are repaid. 

Cox said the measure is the logical extension of a bill Trump signed into law this week that guarantees back pay to federal employees who aren’t receiving paychecks during the shutdown. 

“This is not a pie in the sky legislation, this is the logical next step to legislation that’s already been passed,” Cox said Thursday. “We have already signed into law that these workers are due, and we are obligated to pay them, their back wages. This just turns that commitment into cash, into cash that they can use today.”

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