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Democrats to pass more spending bills to pressure GOP on shutdown

Published: Sunday, January 06, 2019 @ 12:00 AM

With little evidence of progress in weekend talks to end a funding lapse which has triggered a partial government shutdown that's now into a third week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Saturday that the House would start passing individual bills to re-open specific departments and agencies in the federal government, in a bid to put public pressure on Republicans over the shutdown dispute.

"The senseless uncertainty and chaos of the Trump Shutdown must end, now," Pelosi said in a written statement, announcing that the House would vote first on a spending measure to fund the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

"This action is ncessary so that the American people can receive their tax refunds on schedule," Pelosi added.

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Last Thursday - hours after taking charge of the House - Democrats pushed through two spending measures to re-open departments which saw their funding dry up starting on December 22.

Republicans have refused to bring those bills up for a vote in the Senate.

The goal of Democrats with this legislative gambit is simple - to put Republicans in the House on the record about opening up specific agencies and departments now under a partial shutdown.

A second goal is to increase pressure on Republicans in the U.S. Senate, where the first bill on the Senate floor in 2019 for consideration this coming week is not about the shutdown, but about foreign policy matters in the Middle East.

The announcement by Pelosi came after a day of negotiations at the White House involving Vice President Mike Pence and top Congressional aides; neither side reported any breakthrough to end the ongoing dispute over the President's border wall.

"The conversation was productive and they agreed to meet again," an aide to Pence told reporters, as the Vice President's office made clear that Democrats had been told the President wants funding in any agreement "for the border wall."

Mr. Trump stayed out of public view on Saturday, but used the bully pulpit of Twitter to criticize Democrats for their refusal to approve money for a wall, as Congress won't return to work in either the House or Senate until Tuesday.

"The Democrats could solve the shutdown in a very short period of time," the President wrote, a day after acknowledging that he told Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer that the shutdown could last 'months or even years' if he doesn't get his border wall funding.

Congress has approved five of the twelve spending bills which fund the operations of the federal government; the remaining seven bills fund about 25 percent of Uncle Sam, everything from the Border Patrol to the FAA, TSA, NASA, Justice Department, Commerce Department, EPA, and more.

While some Republican Senators indicated a desire to re-open the government - and continue negotiations on the border wall issue in the interim - there were no such cracks appearing among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"We must end this shutdown now and provide certainty that hard-working families will receive their tax refunds on time," said Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), one of the dozens of new Democrats elected to the House in 2018, as she defeated a more conservative GOP incumbent in a suburban area outside Minneapolis.

"If President Trump is really concerned about national security then why isn't he paying employees at the FBI, TSA and other security agencies who work every day to protect this country?" said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

"Our constituents are speaking loud and clear," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), as Democrats blamed the President for creating a funding crisis.

Back home in their districts, Democrats went on a media offensive, with lawmakers going to national park facilities to pick up trash, highlighting how the shutdown has forced the National Park Service to curtail such services.

"For each day this shutdown continues, federal employees and contractors are left wondering when they will get their next paycheck and the bills are piling up," said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

The next paycheck would ordinarily roll in on January 11 for most federal workers - but with the shutdown, that would be delayed until later in the month, putting pressure on workers who don't have an extra financial cushion.

But even some of those who are being inconvenienced say they didn't mind.

"It is holding up the sale of my house because HUD is closed," one person told me on Twitter. "But I still support the shutdown in order to #BuildThatWall."

The President was going to Camp David on Sunday to meet with top aides about the shutdown, and how best to hold Republicans together.

Only a handful of Republicans broke ranks last Thursday to vote for the two spending bills before the House. Reports indicated that the White House lobbied a number of GOP lawmakers to vote against the plans, in order to undercut Democratic Party efforts to divide Republicans on the shutdown.

At this point, Senate Majority Leader McConnell says he won't bring any bills up on the floor about the shutdown until there is an agreement with the White House which can pass the Senate with 60 votes or more.

Before Christmas, the President had told Senate GOP leaders that he supported a short term measure to keep the government. Then, at the urging of more conservative House members, the President changed his mind after the Senate had approved the plan, leading to the current standoff over money for his border wall.

On Sunday morning, Democrats posted the text of four different spending bills to be voted on in the coming week, laying the groundwork for the votes promised by Pelosi.

A bill funding the Treasury Department, IRS, and other financial agencies can be found here.

A bill funding transportation and housing programs is here.

A bill funding the Department of Agriculture, food stamps, and other related programs is here.

A bill to fund the National Park Service and other programs under the Interior Department is here.

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