Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds up the gavel as the 116th Congress convenes. Photo: The Washington Post
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds up the gavel as the 116th Congress convenes. Photo: The Washington Post

Democrat-controlled House passes US shutdown bills but impasse remains

  • But bills are likely to be vetoed by Donald Trump, since they do not include funding for his wall along the Mexico border
Topic |   United States

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds up the gavel as the 116th Congress convenes. Photo: The Washington Post
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds up the gavel as the 116th Congress convenes. Photo: The Washington Post

US Democrats swept back to power on Thursday in the House of Representatives with veteran Nancy Pelosi at the helm, but they came face to face with what may be a new divided government normal in Washington: legislative gridlock.

After the opening session of the 116th Congress in which Pelosi was elected as speaker for the second time in her storied career, lawmakers took aim at a bipartisan priority of ending a partial government shutdown that was stretching into its 13th day.

The House passed two measures that would reopen agencies where funding had lapsed, but provide no money for a border wall demanded by President Donald Trump.

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They are all but dead on arrival in the Senate, where the Republican leadership has vowed not to bring them up for a vote because they do not pass muster with the president.

Trump has demanded Congress approve US$5.6 billion to build a wall on the southern US border with Mexico – a major pledge from his 2016 presidential campaign.

The bills that passed the House contain no wall funding.

“We’re not doing a wall,” Pelosi told reporters before the votes largely along party lines. “A wall is an immorality between countries. It’s an old way of thinking, it isn’t cost effective.”

Pelosi argued the money would be better spent on border security technology such as drones and cameras, and hiring more border agents.

Republicans blasted the vote as a pointless political gimmick that would do little to provide the resources necessary to secure the border, and said Democrats were not negotiating in good faith.

“The president made it clear, we’re here to make a deal,” Vice-President Mike Pence told Fox News on Thursday night. “We will have no deal without a wall.”

US President Donald Trump delivering a statement on border security and the ongoing partial shutdown on January 3, 2019. Photo: EPA
US President Donald Trump delivering a statement on border security and the ongoing partial shutdown on January 3, 2019. Photo: EPA

Democrats said they would visit the White House on Friday to try to break the impasse, but lawmakers have warned the shutdown could extend for several more days, even weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats would have to “get serious about border security so that a government funding agreement may be reached that can pass the House, earn 60 votes here in the Senate, and receive a presidential signature”.

Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said divided government was “no excuse for gridlock or inaction” before handing the gavel to Pelosi.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Democrat-controlled house moves to end the shutdown