U.S. House passes bills that would end gov't shutdown, without wall funds

Reuters

Posted at Jan 04 2019 11:33 AM | Updated as of Jan 04 2019 12:03 PM

U.S. Capitol is seen on the first day of a partial federal government shutdown in Washington, U.S., December 22, 2018. Reuters

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats now hold a majority, approved legislation on Thursday to end a partial government shutdown that began nearly two weeks ago at several federal agencies and fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8.

Under the bills, the departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Treasury and other agencies would be funded through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Hours before the vote, the White House said advisers to President Donald Trump would recommend that he veto the measure if Congress passed it without any additional money for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The 2019-2020 Congress convened with roughly a quarter of the federal government closed, affecting 800,000 employees, in a shutdown triggered by Trump's demand last month for the money for a U.S.-Mexican border wall - opposed by Democrats - as part of any legislation funding government agencies.

The House earlier on Thursday had formally picked Nancy Pelosi, a veteran Democratic lawmaker and liberal from San Francisco, as its speaker, beginning her second stint in one of Washington's most powerful jobs. She is the only woman ever to serve as speaker and will preside over the most diverse U.S. House in history, including a record number of women and Latinos.

The two-part Democratic package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8, providing $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.

The second part would fund the other federal agencies that are now unfunded including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

"We're not doing a wall. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with a wall is an immorality between countries. It's an old way of thinking. It isn't cost effective," Pelosi told reporters late on Thursday.

As speaker, Pelosi now is situated to lead Democratic opposition to Trump's agenda and carry out investigations of his administration following two years during which congressional Republicans largely acquiesced to the president.

Trump on Thursday made an unannounced appearance in the White House briefing room to make the case for the border wall, accompanied by members of a union that represents border patrol agents that endorsed him for president in 2016. He congratulated Pelosi on her selection as speaker and said: "Hopefully we're going to work together."

"The wall - you can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want - but essentially we need protection in our country," Trump told reporters, without taking questions.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the Democratic legislation had no future in the Senate, calling it "political theater, not productive lawmaking."

"Let's not waste the time," he said on the Senate floor. "Let's not get off on the wrong foot with House Democrats using their platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions."

McConnell said the Senate would not take up any proposal that did not have a real chance of getting Trump's signature.