Shutdown continues, House to take up ag bill

-The Hagstrom Report

As President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders continue to spar over the partial government shutdown and building a physical barrier on the Mexican border, the House plans to vote on fiscal year 2019 agriculture and interior appropriations bills on Thursday.

The votes on the agriculture and interior bills follow approval of the rule governing debate on those bills and on the Financial Services and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bills.

The bills being considered by the House are the same as the bills the Senate passed last year.

The House adopted the rule by a vote of 231-195. Democrats argued that the time to open the closed government agencies has come, while the Republicans said the House should not defer to Senate funding priorities.

The Financial Services bill passed 240 to 188, with eight Republicans joining 232 Democrats in voting for it. Three Republicans and two Democrats did not vote.

The Republicans who voted for it are Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Will Hurd of Texas, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Elise Stefanik of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Greg Walden of Oregon.

In a floor speech today, House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass., noted that the four bills “are virtually identical to the bills the Senate passed by a veto-proof 92 to 6 margin in August.”

“These bills offer us a way out of the president’s shutdown, an embarrassing spectacle that never should have happened in the first place. … But this doesn’t have to continue. At his press conference the other day, the president boasted he could keep our government closed for years. He may not know how to get us out of this mess, but this Democratic majority does.”

At the Rules Committee hearing Wednesday, McGovern said, “I was on the floor multiple times pleading with the Republican majority in the waning days of the last Congress to let us consider the bipartisan spending bills. And they refused. But it’s a new Congress and a new majority. One that will act responsibly to end this Trump shutdown.

“This president’s temper tantrum over his stupid wall should never have led to any part of this government being closed for business,” McGovern continued. “And certainly not agencies like the Agriculture Department or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which are totally unrelated to border security.

“Food access for nearly 40 million Americans shouldn’t be at risk. FHA’s ability to help families achieve the dream of homeownership shouldn’t be at risk. The safety of Americans visiting our national parks shouldn’t be at risk. I could go on and on and on.

“So we are here to do the responsible thing. To take up a series of four appropriations bills that recently passed the Senate: the Agriculture; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; Financial Services-General Government; and Interior-Environment Appropriations bills,” he said.

“And let me remind my colleagues that Congress is a co-equal branch of government. If the president doesn’t want to sign these bills, both chambers could pass them with veto-proof margins and reopen the government without the president’s signature,” McGovern concluded. “We are 17 days into this Trump shutdown. Enough is enough.”

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans challenged Trump on his shutdown strategy during a closed-door meeting today, The Hill reported.

At a White House meeting this afternoon, Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would not agree to funding the wall or another physical barrier.