Democrats Plan Thursday Vote to Open Government

WASHINGTON (CN) – House Democrats plan to vote Thursday on their plan to open the federal government, despite President Donald Trump’s preemptive promise to not sign their short-term spending proposal.

Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday morning, Jan. 1, 2019, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week. A high-stakes move to reopen the government will be the first big battle between Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump as Democrats come into control of the House. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“Because that is our responsibility as a co-equal branch of government, to do that which we think is right,” Representative Steny Hoyer, the incoming House majority leader, told reporters when asked why the House would go forward on a plan Trump will not sign.

Trump invited congressional leadership to come to the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on border security, but the meeting broke without an agreement to end the ongoing shutdown, which started Dec. 22.

House Democrats plan to vote on a package of legislation Thursday that would fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8 without any new money for Trump’s long-promised border wall. Trump has repeatedly demanded any agreement to reopen the government include $5 billion for a wall along the southern border.  

The package would fund the other executive agencies hit by the shutdown through Sept. 30. The plan is expected to fail in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said lawmakers will not approve an agreement Trump will not sign.

Presumed incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted the package Democrats plan to pass Thursday has already received approval from Senate Republicans, either in committees or on the full Senate floor.

“We have given Republicans a chance to take yes for an answer,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. “We have taken their proposals, unamended by any House bipartisan amendments, but just staying true to what the Senate has already done. Our question to the president and to the Republicans is why don’t you accept what you have already done to open up government?”

Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said Wednesday congressional leadership hopes Trump will eventually agree to a compromise.

Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the package House Democrats plan to vote on Thursday would give lawmakers and the White House more time to negotiate a border security deal.

“I asked him directly, I said give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown of the eight cabinet departments, while we are debating our differences on homeland security,” Schumer said. “He could not give a good answer.”

At a cabinet meeting earlier in the day, Trump said he has a number he would agree to below his $5 billion request for the wall, but would not give an exact amount. Trump also railed against illegal immigration and said the shutdown will continue “as long as it takes.”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Trump invited the leadership teams back to the White House on Friday, after Thursday’s leadership elections at the start of the new Congress.

The shutdown approaching two weeks in length attracted little attention over the holidays but its effects are now becoming apparent.

National parks are perhaps the clearest sign of gridlock in Washington. They’ve become overwhelmed by human waste that continues to pile up, and the lack of park staff has resulted in illegal off-road driving and visitors letting their dogs off leashes to run wild in areas populated by bears and other wildlife.

Federal prosecutors are working without pay in courtrooms across the country, including in the Brooklyn trial of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

In Manhattan and northern Ohio, federal judges have gone so far as to pause all civil cases involving government lawyers until Justice Department funding has been restored.

The federal courts system itself only has enough money to run through Jan. 11.

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