House takes up first appropriations bill in strategy to reopen government

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) gestures as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (R) looks on during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi held a news conference to introduce H.R.1, the "For the People Act," a reform package "to restore the promise of our nation's democracy, end the culture of corruption in Washington, and reduce the role of money in politics to return the power back to the American people." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Nancy Pelosi and team

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The House of Representatives will vote again Wednesday to reopen a part of the government that has been shut down for 19 days because of a presidential temper tantrum. Last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s House took two votes to reopen government agencies, a “minibus” that included the appropriations bills already agreed-on either by the full House and Senate or by committees in each chamber, and a second, continuing resolution that maintained current levels of funding for Homeland Security until Feb. 8. Both passed easily, and both gained a handful of Republican votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up either of those, so Pelosi is ratcheting up the pressure on him by sending multiple spending bills to the Senate this week. Wednesday’s bill will be the appropriations for financial services, including Treasury and the IRS. They will continue to pass these individual appropriations for the remainder of the week, and will continue to peel off House Republicans. For its part, Republican leadership expects as many as a couple of dozen defections, but needs to hold that number below 55, which would give Pelosi a veto-proof majority and make it harder for McConnell to continue to ignore the bills.

One of the Republican defections Pelosi can count on is Texas Rep. Will Hurd, whose district stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. He’ll keep voting to fund government. “If this is a crisis, the people dealing with this crisis should get paid,” he said on CNN Tuesday night after Trump‘s Oval Office address. “I’ve been very clear that building a 35-foot-high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” he added. He also pointed out that there’s no crisis. “Everyone tries to act like this is some scary drug cartel movie back in the day,” he said. “The reality is that there are people sneaking into the country, we can stop that if we have smart solutions, and that’s ultimately going to be relying on technology.”

There are plenty of Republican Senators who privately, and publicly! agree. The longer McConnell lets this drag on, the worse it is for all those Republicans who are looking at 2020 through the filter of 2018’s shellacking.

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