Democrats Agree on Plan to End Government Shutdown Without Wall Funding
WASHINGTON — House Democrats are putting forward a proposal to reopen the federal government by severing funding for the Department of Homeland Security from the other spending bills that enjoy bipartisan support — a gambit aimed at forcing President Trump to negotiate or shoulder the blame for a protracted shutdown.
The Democrats’ plan, to come up for a vote on Thursday when they take control of the House, consists of six bipartisan spending bills that would fully fund agencies like the Department of Interior and the Internal Revenue Service through the end of the fiscal year. The proposal would also extend Homeland Security funding at current levels through Feb. 8, including $1.3 billion for fencing but no funding for Mr. Trump’s border wall — a provision that renders it dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.
By splitting off the Homeland Security bill, Democrats are essentially daring Mr. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, to keep a big chunk of the government shuttered over the president’s demand for the wall.
It is far from clear what the Senate and the president will do. The measures would create a month for Mr. Trump and the Democrats to negotiate over the border impasse. Still, if the Republicans accept the Democrats’ term, Mr. Trump would lose much of his leverage in the border wall fight.
Mr. McConnell has already said he would not bring up a measure that does not have the president’s support — a point his spokesman, Don Stewart, reiterated on Monday.
“It’s simple,” Mr. Stewart said. “The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign.”
Still, with the shutdown stretching into its 10th day and with federal workers about to miss their first paychecks on Wednesday, Democrats are gambling that Republicans will ultimately have to blink and relent on the border wall.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and incoming speaker of the House, has continued to insist that Democrats will not cave on the issue of wall funding.
“He’s not going to get a wall,” she said in a recent interview. “But he has to recognize, we are the first branch, Article 1, the legislative branch, and we’re here not as a rubber stamp to the executive branch but are coequal to him.”
Neither side appears ready to budge.
On Monday, Mr. Trump again emphasized that the border wall was integral to national security, calling the southern border an “open wound.”
“I campaigned on Border Security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful Wall,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Our Southern Border has long been an ‘Open Wound,’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country.”
And Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, blasted the proposal in a tweet. “Nancy Pelosi’s newest funding proposal doesn’t represent any serious attempt to secure our border or find a compromise,” Mr. Meadows wrote on Twitter. “A $1.3 billion Democrat wish list that includes zero money for a border barrier is a non-starter and will not be a legitimate answer to this impasse.”
By passing only a short-term funding extension for the Homeland Security Department, Democrats would effectively prolong the divisive debate over the wall — and potentially open a path for progressives to push for a broader immigration overhaul.
That could complicate the early days of Ms. Pelosi’s leadership, but Democrats say they hope their plan will draw a sharp contrast between them and Mr. Trump, by projecting an image of a responsible party trying to govern in a capital ruled by a president who thrives on unpredictability.
“I think it will suck some oxygen out of the room — that’s obviously what’s happening here,” Representative Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, said in an interview Monday. “We’ve got to really learn how to play jujitsu with the president and figure out how to take the wall issue and show the American people that we are the modern party who will actually secure the border and also be for a compassionate immigration system that recognizes the benefits of immigration and diversity.”
In the Senate, lawmakers of both parties have been pushing for Congress to play a deeper role in negotiations with the president.
“Democrats and Republicans have worked together toward that end before, it’s going to take us working together to get it done,” Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “And that’s what I want to do as chairman of the Appropriations Committee — to reach out to the Democrats, get the president on board, get the Democrats on board, and let’s move on and quit fighting and quit blaming each other.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, echoed the sentiment.
“I think Congress needs to take a more proactive and aggressive role in framing a compromise,” he said in an interview. “Frankly, there’s no leadership forthcoming from the president. Just buzzwords and slogans.”