WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package now awaiting President Biden‘s signature, marking the first measure to address the pandemic that made its way through Congress entirely along party lines.
House Democrats cleared the legislation by a 220-211 vote on Wednesday, after the Senate passed it in a 50-49 vote on Saturday.
Republicans lined up in opposition against the legislation by arguing it is overly partisan and filled with unnecessary provisions that wouldn’t help defeat the pandemic.
“This should be a targeted relief bill, but instead, this is an attempt by Speaker Pelosi to further promote her socialist agenda,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
By contrast, past pandemic relief measures enacted last year after protracted negotiations between the Democratic-House, GOP Senate and the Trump administration passed with bipartisan support. But now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, they opted to craft a relief measure without GOP input.
“If you are a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I believe the American public wants something different. I believe they were proud of the fact we did something here that was bipartisan.”
Polling shows that the legislation is broadly popular with voters, particularly the expanded tax credits and $1,400 stimulus checks.
A Pew Research poll released on Tuesday found 70 percent overall favored the bill, while a CNN survey out Wednesday found that 61 percent support the relief measure.
But the support dropped sharply among Republicans in both surveys, while Democrats and independents largely favored the legislation.
Only one centrist Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), defected from his party during Wednesday’s vote.
Golden said he believed the Senate went too far in some areas to scale back the bill, specifically the unemployment insurance payments and minimum wage increase, while not going far enough in other areas such as the stimulus checks.
“While the Senate made modest changes to the legislation, some of those changes undermined parts of the bill I do support, and others were insufficient to address my concerns with the overall size and scope of the bill,” Golden said.
Republicans sought a variety of amendments to the bill in the House and Senate, including requiring K-12 schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction in order to access funding and eliminating $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts that’s intended to help arts organizations that have faced layoffs and budget cuts during the pandemic.
Senate Republicans briefly secured the adoption of an amendment with the support of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to keep the weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payments at $300, rather than increasing them to $400 as under the original House bill.
WASHINGTON– White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows announced Monday that the White House has increased its stimulus offer as the Tuesday deadline to secure a deal before the election reaches its final hours.
“We’ve increased our offer up to almost $1.9 trillion,” Meadows told reporters on Monday morning. “[The president] is willing to give some additional money in terms of direct payments, he’s willing to give some additional money in terms of PPP to restaurants and hotels and small businesses.”
The White House announcement comes in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s incistence that a deal must be reached by Tuesday in order for legislation to have a chance of passing before the election. Pelosi — who spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the weekend and is expected to talk with him again on Monday — said while there’s been progress, no deal has yet been reached.
“While there was some encouraging news, much work remains,” Pelosi said in a statement Sunday. “I am optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election.”
Pelosi, (D-CA), has proposed a $2.2 trillion package that the White House has steadfastly rejected.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said President Donald Trump’s alleged tax debts were not only an issue of public concern but a “matter of national security,”
Responding to a New York Times report which detailed the president’s financial records over the past two decades, Pelosi, (D)-Calif., called the revelations a matter of “grave concern.”
“This president appears to have over $400 million in debt, $420 million whatever it is,” Pelosi told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have? So for me, this is a national security question.”
“We take an oath to protect and defend, Pelosi continued. This president is commander in chief. He has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, to whom? The public has a right to know.”
The Times report suggested that the president has paid no income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years, primarily due to financial losses, and that the president is facing a decades long Internal Revenue Service audit over a $72.9 million tax refund he received that could wind up costing him more than $100 million.
Pelosi went on to question whether any of the debts in question were tied to Russia.
“The question is what does Putin have on the president politically, personally, financially in every way that the president would try to undermine our commitment to NATO, give away the store to Russia and Syria, try to cast blame on Ukraine for interfering in our elections when he knows full well with the consensus from the intelligence community that it is Russia. The list goes on and on. The annexation in the Crimea, and the rest of that that the president just turns away from,” Pelosi said. “So, he says he likes Putin and Putin likes him. Well, what’s the connection? We’ll see.”
In a series of tweets, the president defended himself and his financial records, referring to the New York Times report as “fake news.”
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said the House will remain in session until lawmakers come to an agreement on the next COVID-19 relief bill.
We have to stay here until we have a bill,” a Democratic aid said Pelosi told her colleagues on a morning conference call.
In August, talks between House Democrats and Republicans broke down over the hotly contested bill and most political watchers announced little faith that an agreement could be reached by Election Day.
But this week Democrats signed off on a $1.5 trillion rescue package endorsed by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of about 50 lawmakers who seek bipartisan solutions. An approximately $650 billion Senate GOP plan failed last week due to Democratic opposition.
The plan contains many elements of COVID rescue packages devised by both Democrats and Republicans and includes funding to schools, state and local governments, and renewal of lapsed COVID-related unemployment benefits but the price is significantly less than an unspecified $2.2 trillion figure originally demanded by Pelosi, but sources say Democrats are now willing to compromise,
“This is how Congress is supposed to work,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
“We believe that getting to a compromise is absolutely essential,” No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland told the media on Tuesday. “Getting to a compromise that does not deal with the problems, however, is not useful, because the longer you delay addressing many of the problems, the greater you weaken both the economy and the response to COVID-19.”
WASHINGTON — White House officials are pressing congressional leaders to approve a fourth Coronavirus-related stimulus package totaling much as $2 trillion in direct aid to Americans prior to the election, Fox Business is reporting.
Citing unidentified sources within the Trump administration, Fox claims the plan could include payroll tax cuts, which have been heavily pushed for by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and aid to Democrat-controlled states such as California, Illinois and New York.
Additional perks of the package would reportedly include infrastructure spending, an extension of unemployment benefits to Americans impacted by the first wave of Coronavirus and additional liability protections for businesses as they attempt to reopen should a possible “second wave” of infections from the Coronavirus occur.
According to Fox, administration officials believe the timing is key and that such a package would drive the unemployment rate to below 10%, boosting President Donald Trump’s odds of a landslide reelection. Last week the economy reported a 2.5 million increase in new jobs and unemployment for May fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent in April, when the shutdown was at it’s max. On Tuesday, another key economic improvement was reported as retail sales showed an 18 percent increase in May.
When reached for statement, both White House officials and representatives for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had no comment.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — President Trump and Congress are on a collision course over whether to rename Army bases that are named for Confederate military officers.
Trump is adamantly opposed to changing the names, tweeting Wednesday that he would “not even consider” doing so. The next day he warned Republicans not to “fall for” for a legislative effort to change the names.
But just hours after making his position clear, news emerged that the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other military assets bearing the names of Confederate leaders.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a committee member, said the amendment shows Trump’s “resistance is so out of touch to be almost irrelevant,” while Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said “it’s part of the reckoning that’s long overdue.”
The House, too, appears poised to adopt a related amendment when it considers its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — increasing the odds that a form of the amendment finds its way to Trump’s desk, forcing him to decide whether to veto a $740 billion bill that includes a pay raise for troops, new military hardware and other administration priorities.
“We’ll work that through, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), an Armed Services Committee member, said Thursday when asked about Trump’s opposition. “And the message is that if we’re going to have bases throughout the United States, I think it should be with the names of individuals who fought for our country. And so I think this is a step in the right direction. This is the right time for it. And I think it sends the right message.”
The rapid moves on Capitol Hill come on the heels of Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announcing through an Army spokesperson on Monday that they were open to changing the names of 10 bases named after Confederate military officers: Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill and Fort Lee in Virginia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Hood in Texas; and Fort Rucker in Alabama.
The announcement, a reversal from a position expressed by the Army as recently as February, came amid nationwide protests over police violence and racial injustices. Protesters, along with state and local governments, have moved to take down multiple Confederate statues and monuments following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Congress is also grappling with how to handle its own Confederate statues, but with Democrats and Republicans proposing different approaches.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked for a congressional committee to remove them from the halls of Congress, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argue it’s up to individual states to decide which statues represent them in the Capitol.
On Thursday, a group of black lawmakers introduced legislation that would remove the statues.
Trump, meanwhile, has been digging in.
Just two days after the Army’s announcement on Monday, Trump put an end to the service’s deliberations.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump tweeted. “Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
At a press briefing that started minutes later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Trump would veto an NDAA that required renaming the bases.
At that same time, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were meeting behind closed doors to consider their version of the NDAA.
The amendment approved by the committee was first offered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), though a committee staffer told reporters on a background call Thursday that changes were made to Warren’s original proposal in order to secure bipartisan support.
The revised amendment, as passed, would create a commission tasked with crafting an implementation plan for renaming bases and other assets, including examining costs and criteria for changing names, such as whether someone fought for the Confederacy “voluntarily,” a staffer said.
At the end of three years, the amendment says, the Pentagon “shall” remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy or anyone who served voluntarily in the Confederate army, the staffer said.
“What we saw yesterday was a very thoughtful process and a bipartisan process of taking a very complicated and difficult issue, and putting in place a commission that will have a three-year period of operation that will carefully look at all the aspects of this issue and will also be able to engage in local communities who have an interest in the names of these facilities,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
But Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), stressing that it is early in the NDAA process, said he opposes the amendment as passed and indicated he would work to water it down.
In particular, Inhofe said he thinks there should be more flexibility in whether the commission can recommend against changing a name and that local communities should have more say in whether bases are renamed.
“We’re talking about input of the community, not just in the process, but also after a product comes out, they have to decide,” he said. “I think they ought to have veto authority.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), also on the committee, said he voted against the amendment. The amendment was approved on a voice vote, so there is no official record of who voted for or against it.
“I just don’t think Congress mandating that these be renamed and attempting to erase that part of our history is a way you deal with history,” Hawley said Thursday.
Trump on Thursday mocked Warren for proposing the amendment and warned Republicans against supporting it.
“Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars,” Trump tweeted, using a nickname for Warren that Native Americans and others consider racist. “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!”
Senators opposed to the amendment could try to strip it out when the full Senate takes up the NDAA as soon as next week. But amending a bill on the floor in the upper chamber is often an uphill battle.
“If it’s in the base bill coming out of the committee … obviously it’s a heavy lift to take anything out of the bill if it’s been signed off there,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Thune said he has yet to take a “view or position” on renaming the bases, but that “it’s a discussion worth having.”
“I know the president’s taken a pretty hard position on this. So I guess that’s something we’ll end up discussing,” he said.
Other GOP leaders signaled they preferred not to get involved, at least at this stage.
Asked if he supported the amendment, McConnell sidestepped. “That will be up to the committee to decide,” he responded.
en. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only African American Republican in the Senate, also said he hasn’t taken a position yet, adding that his focus right now is on the police reform bill he is taking the lead on drafting.
Still, some Republicans say they support changing the base names.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a frequent Trump critic who marched in a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C. last weekend, said he supports changing the names “in some cases” and that Trump’s stance is “not where I’d be.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) questioned the need to “perpetually” name a base after someone.
“There have been a lot of great soldiers that have come along since the Civil War,” he said.
Blunt also noted the historical consensus that “Braxton Bragg was probably the worst commanding general in the Confederate army,” quipping that he’s an “interesting general to name a fort after.”
Lawmakers disinclined to clash with Trump could also have a chance to remove the amendment when the Senate and House reconcile their versions of the legislation.
But with the House likely to include a version of the amendment in their bill, that would make it much harder to eliminate the provision during bicameral negotiations.
Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), an Army veteran who is black, and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), an Air Force veteran, announced Thursday they have introduced a bill to create a commission to rename bases and other Pentagon property within a year.
Brown said in a statement that the name of a base “matters to the Black soldiers serving at an installation honoring the name of a leader who fought to preserve slavery and oppression,” while Bacon said “it is only right that our installations bear the names of military heroes who represent the best ideals of our republic.”
A spokesman for Brown said they plan to introduce the measure as an NDAA amendment when the House Armed Services Committee considers its version of the bill July 1.
Kevin McCarthy said he would reserve judgment until the NDAA is out of committee, but did not dismiss the idea of renaming the bases.
“I know Esper said he would be open to it and look at it as well,” he said. “I know there are a number of people in the armed services that think it could be appropriate to change some, and some would say otherwise not to. So we’ll look to see what comes out of the NDAA. I’ll wait to see what comes out of the NDAA. Not opposed to it, though.”
The Hill’s Jordain Carney and Juliegrace Brufke contributed to the contents of this article.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said violating America’s immigration laws is not reason for deportation.
The California Democrat made the comments at a “Speaker of the House” event in New York while referencing a phone call she had with President Donald Trump. The president later delayed much publicized plans to begin mass deportations after the pair spoke.
“So when I spoke to the president, I said ‘Look, I’m a mom, I have five kids, …nine grandchildren, and children are scared,” Pelosi said. “‘You’re scaring the children of America. Not just those families, but their neighbors and their communities. You’re scaring the children.’”
“I said a violation of status is not a reason for deportation, that’s just not so,” Pelosi continued. “If you have some case you want to make about somebody who’s been accused… that has nothing to do with violation of status, because then we’re talking about over 10 million people who may be subjected to this treatment, and what we need there is comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”
“When I saw the president was going to have these raids, it’s so appalling, it’s outside the realm of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors and splitting up families in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” Pelosi added. “We have legislation to go forward to address those needs. But in terms of interior enforcement, what’s the point?”
The president took a great deal of heat from his Republican base after deciding to delay deportations as he works to come to a compromise with Democrats on illegal immigration.
Securing the nation’s border was a key topic of his 2016 presidential election. The matter is expected to remain the focus of his 2020 bid for re-election.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her ongoing defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Omar (D-Minn.), has been under constant fire in recent weeks after making comments that were deemed anti-Semitic by Republicans and Democrats alike.
The controversy began in February after the freshman Democrat responded to a tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had commented on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threat to punish Omar and another congresswoman for being critical of Israel.
Omar wrote back, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” insinuating that Republicans only supported Jews and Israel for financial gain.
In a follow-up tweet Omar named the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, claiming the organization was funding Republican support for Israel.
Then last month, Omar again sparked controversy after making what many saw as hurtful comments regarding the September 11, 2001 terror attacks
“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” Omar said in March in a speech to the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Pelosi was featured in a “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday night in which she slammed Trump’s leadership and appeared to downplay Omar’s inflammatory comments.
“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump tweeted. “She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”
The president’s latest statement on the issue follows a tweet he put out on Friday which contained video footage of the September 11 terror attacks. In it he criticized Omar’s comments.
In a statement released late Sunday, Omar claimed she has been the subject of death threats following the president’s 9/11 tweet.
“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief,” Omar said. “We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — House Democratic leaders are scrambling for a way to unite their splintered caucus following a series of embarrassing votes that have empowered the minority Republicans and escalated tensions among the top party brass.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday urged her troops to oppose the Republicans’ procedural motions as a blanket policy, regardless of their substance, but faced resistance from some moderates who want the leeway to vote with local concerns in mind.
“Vote ‘no.’ Just vote ‘no,’ because the fact is a vote ‘yes’ is to give leverage to the other side, to surrender the leverage on the floor of the House,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, relaying the message she gave to Democrats at a closed-door meeting.
Pelosi’s plea follows an embarrassing hiccup on Wednesday during a vote on a key gun reform bill to require universal background checks.
More than two dozen Democrats, mostly freshmen from swing districts, crossed the aisle to help Republicans pass a motion to recommit (MTR) — a parliamentary proposal released at the last minute — to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a person in the country illegally tries to buy a gun.
The surprise GOP victory forced Democrats to endorse an immigration policy most oppose to ensure passage of their long-sought background check bill.
At a closed-door Thursday meeting of the Democratic whip team in the Capitol basement, Pelosi and a number of rank-and-file members — including prominent freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — implored their colleagues to reject the GOP procedural gambits, regardless of how tough it might seem to vote against them.
But a number of moderate Democrats are vowing to vote however they see fit.
“I vote my district,” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who voted in favor of the GOP’s measure, told The Hill on Thursday.
Freshman Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.) also held firm.
“I always feel responsible for what I vote for,” said Van Drew, who voted against his party on the GOP measure. “And if I believe something makes sense I’ll vote for it; if I think it doesn’t make sense, I won’t vote for it — if it’s an MTR or anything else.”
Democrats say they get where lawmakers like Van Drew are coming from. But they also say their votes are putting the rest of the party in a bad position.
“We certainly understand the situation that the new members feel, and we’re just trying to remind them this is a procedural tool of the minority,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, said leaving the Thursday meeting. “They have to remember that … the very essence of it is to put them in awkward positions.”
The loss on Wednesday was particularly painful because it was a surprise and because it came on gun control legislation that’s a cornerstone of the Democratic legislative agenda.
Ocasio-Cortez told her colleagues that she had to explain what unfolded on the floor to the activists seated in the visitors’ gallery, according to a lawmaker in the room.
“These MTRs, they’re designed to be essentially the House version of Trump’s agenda when it comes to dividing people,” Ocasio-Cortez said after the meeting. “They force a zero-sum situation where, in order to get my thing, I have to hurt another person.
“I think it’s something that we need to anticipate, and I think it is something we need to be united against.”
For the Democrats, the split starts at the very top. Pelosi has built a long-earned reputation for uniting her caucus against such procedural maneuvers, which she deems “gotcha” votes. But her top lieutenants — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — want to give freshmen and other vulnerable lawmakers the freedom to break with the party on tough votes.
“I think we suffer from potentially a lack of consistency in terms of the message that members are getting,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a chief deputy whip. “I think that’s a problem.”
Democrats discussed potentially changing House rules to require more advance notice of the legislative text for motions to recommit. But top leaders made no decision on Thursday and, for now, are simply encouraging the rank-and-file to fall in line.
Leadership has also taken some steps to help manage the moderates inclined to vote for the motions. Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) have been tasked in recent weeks with helping their respective Blue Dog and New Democrat coalition members understand the procedure and content of the motions while reporting back to the whip team, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Clyburn said the caucus is still having discussions and is not yet seriously entertaining a rules change.
“Not yet, not yet,” he said.
Pelosi suggested that the newly created Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress could consider changes to motions to recommit.
“I think that’s an appropriate place for some of that discussion to take place. In the meantime, vote ‘no,’ ” Pelosi said.
Republicans have twice won passage of motions to recommit this year. The obscure measures allow the minority party one last opportunity to change legislation before its final passage. The minority party can spring it on the majority at the last minute with little to no advance notice of a specific amendment.
“There’s a good deal of frustration over this in the caucus,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
Republicans cried foul over the possibility of a rules change to one of the few tools they have at their disposal in the minority.
Speaking to reporters, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday accused Democrats of trying to restrict minority party rights — dating back to 1909 — once they took back the majority.
“Less than 60 days into the new majority, they want to silence the minority. That’s wrong,” McCarthy said.
Some Democrats in the whip meeting argued that Republicans will attack vulnerable members anyway, no matter how many times they vote for the procedural motions to avoid unflattering campaign ads, according to lawmakers in the room.
“People are going to run ads whether they cast tough votes or not,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). “The point was made in there that you’ve got to understand the cost of that to the caucus itself, and how that weakens the caucus.”
But others are sympathetic to colleagues in competitive districts who worry about tough votes.
“My personal opinion is that procedure votes, parties usually stick with each other on procedure votes. But I do have an understanding of members from vulnerable districts and they have to vote their district,” said centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
Democrats used motions to recommit to try to change bills when they were in the minority, but their efforts were unsuccessful since Republicans viewed those votes as merely procedural.
But Republicans have repeatedly turned them into efforts to force tough votes for vulnerable Democrats. Earlier this month, they successfully added an amendment condemning anti-Semitism to a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
Republicans pushed the anti-Semitism measure in the aftermath of freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) facing bipartisan backlash for suggesting that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel are motivated by money.
But the GOP’s success with the motion to recommit on the Yemen resolution ended up leading to more problems. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the resolution was no longer “privileged” because of the anti-Semitism language was deemed non-germane, meaning that supporters cannot force a vote in the upper chamber. They will instead have to reintroduce a new resolution and attempt a do-over.
Democrats faced another GOP motion on Thursday to their second gun reform bill of the week, which would lengthen the review period for background checks. Current law allows a firearm sale to proceed if a background check hasn’t been completed within three days.
The legislation is meant as a response to the 2015 shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., in which the gunman, Dylann Roof, would have failed a background check had an examiner received notice that he had been previously arrested for drug possession.
Republicans offered a motion to recommit that would still allow gun transfers to victims of domestic violence after three days. But Democrats easily defeated it after an emotional speech from Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who described the domestic violence between her parents.
“All of us were scared to death about her gun and my father’s gun! We had two guns to worry about!” Dingell said.
Only two of the 26 Democrats who voted for Wednesday’s motion did so again on Thursday: Van Drew and Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.).
The Hill’s Scott Wong contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats ignored a veto threat and prepared to ram legislation through the House Tuesday that would stymie President Donald Trump’s bid for billions of extra dollars for his border wall, escalating a clash over whether Trump was abusing his powers to advance his paramount campaign pledge.
The House’s certain vote to block Trump’s national emergency declaration would throw the political hot potato to the Republican-run Senate, where there were already enough GOP defections to edge it to the cusp of passage. Vice President Mike Pence used a private lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a dangerous crisis at the border, but there were no signs that he’d succeeded.
“I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s planning a vote within the next three weeks.
Senate passage would force Trump’s first veto, which Congress would surely lack the votes to override. But the showdown was forcing Republicans to cast uncomfortable votes pitting their support for a president wildly popular with GOP voters against fears that his expansive use of emergency powers would invite future Democratic presidents to do likewise for their own pet policies.
Underscoring the issue’s political sensitivity, House Republican leaders worked to keep the number of GOP supporters below 53. That’s the number that would be needed to reach a two-thirds majority of 288 votes, assuming all Democrats vote “yes,” the margin required for a veto override.
“If they vote their conscience and the Constitution, we will” get Republican votes, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “If they vote party and politics, we won’t.”
The White House wrote to lawmakers formally threatening to veto the legislation. The letter said blocking the emergency declaration would “undermine the administration’s ability to respond effectively to the ongoing crisis at the Southern Border.”
Republicans said it was Democrats who were driven by politics and a desire to oppose Trump at every turn, and said Trump had the authority to declare an emergency to protect the country. They also defended the president’s claims of a security crisis along the boundary with Mexico, which he has said is ravaged by drug smugglers, human traffickers and immigrants trying to sneak into the U.S. illegally.
“We are at war on the Southern border with the drug cartels,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas.
Trump has asserted that barriers would stop drugs from Mexico from entering the U.S. In fact, government figures show that 90 percent of drugs intercepted from Mexico are caught at ports of entry, not remote areas where barriers would be constructed.
Democrats said Trump’s push for the wall reflected a continuation of the anti-immigrant views that helped fuel his election.
“Since when do we call human beings in need a national emergency?” said Mexican-born Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill. “Is he running out of insults for people like me?”
Democrats also said the crisis is a fiction manufactured by Trump to dance around Congress’ vote this month to provide less than $1.4 billion for barrier construction. That was well below the $5.7 billion Trump demanded as he futilely forced a record-setting 35-day federal shutdown.
“The president does not get to override Congress is a raucous temper tantrum over his inability to broker a deal” for more money with Congress, said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, sponsor of the one-sentence measure blocking the declaration, called Trump’s move “constitutional vandalism.”
Trump used a 1976 law to declare a national emergency and ordered the shift of $3.6 billion from military construction projects to wall building. Citing other powers, he intends to shift another $3.1 billion from Defense Department anti-drug efforts and a fund that collects seized assets.
In the Senate, three Republicans have already said they will back Democrats’ drive to block the emergency declaration: Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. Just one more GOP defection would provide enough votes to approve the Democratic measure, assuming all Democrats and their independent allies back it.
Republicans said senators asked Pence numerous questions about which projects Trump would be divert to pay for the wall, with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., saying the discussion was “hearty.” Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls spending, said his panel would quickly “backfill” money for military construction with other funds he did not identify.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chief GOP vote counter, said there may be GOP attempts to amend the House measure, saying some Republicans “think they have amendments that would improve it.”
That suggests that McConnell may try finding a way to add language that could sink the Democratic resolution or, perhaps, make it more palatable for Republicans. The law requires the Senate to vote on a measure within 18 days of receiving it from the House.
Though presidents have declared 58 emergencies under the law, this is the first aimed at acquiring money for an item Congress has explicitly refused to finance, according to Elizabeth Goitein, co-director for national security at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. This is also the first time Congress has cast votes on whether to annul an emergency declaration, she said.
Even with Democrats’ effort near-certain to fail, several lawsuits have been filed aimed at blocking the money, including by Democratic state attorneys general, progressive and environmental groups. Those suits at the very least are likely to delay access to those funds for months or years.
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Colleen Long contributed to the contents of this report.