Republican leaders gave up hope on Thursday of reopening the government before the new year, leaving the border wall impasse to House Democrats as they assume the majority next week — and presenting Representative Nancy Pelosi with her first major challenge as speaker.
House Democrats, who take control on Wednesday, are weighing three approaches to getting funds flowing, none of which would include additional money for President Trump’s proposed wall along the southwestern border. Whichever path they choose, party leaders said they would vote promptly on January 3, hoping to project the image of Democrats as a steadying hand in Washington even as Republicans try to blame Pelosi and her party for the shutdown and lax border control.
“We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Pelosi is determined to prevent the shutdown brinkmanship from interfering with the Democrats’ assumption of power and her ceremony-soaked return to the speakership. But it appeared almost certain that the careful rollout of Democrats’ legislative agenda — including a sweeping anticorruption and voting rights bill — would be at least partly eclipsed by the funding crisis.
The shutdown has affected about a quarter of the government, left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay, and on Thursday entered its sixth day.
Trump and his allies showed no signs of letting up. Though the president said on national television that he would proudly shut down the government to secure wall funding, Republicans are no longer embracing the mounting crisis.
“The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat Party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“The president does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritise our county’s safety and security.”
The planning for next week’s Democratic takeover was almost all that went on in a desolate Capitol on Thursday. The Senate reconvened for the first time since before Christmas, but with negotiations between the White House and Senate Democrats going nowhere, the session lasted four minutes.
“We just have to get through this,” said Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, who presided over the session. He added, “They say a house divided against itself cannot stand. That’s about where we are.”
©2018 The New York Times Service