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House Democrats Not Whipping Shutdown Vote

Despite opposition from some in minority, enough votes are likely there in chamber

The Capitol Visitor Center, usually full of tourists, sits empty on Jan. 22 during a government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The Capitol Visitor Center, usually full of tourists, sits empty on Jan. 22 during a government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders are not whipping the stopgap spending bill to reopen the government through Feb. 8, freeing members to vote how they wish, members and aides said Monday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said earlier Monday she’ll be voting “no” and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., was expected to follow suit. Their opposition is not likely to change the outcome, though, barring a mass change of heart from Republicans. 

“I think it’s going to pass,” Hoyer said, even as the Democratic caucus met Monday afternoon to discuss whether they can support it. Some Democrats, though, have signaled they will support it, giving the GOP a cushion. 

Hoyer told House Democrats Monday during the caucus meeting that they have the high ground.

“We neither lost the battle, nor the war, and the war will continue,” he said, according to a source in the room.

Hoyer told his colleagues the top issue is that Republicans haven’t actually funded the government because they don’t want to make an agreement on parity in raising the sequestration spending caps for defense and nondefense spending as Congress has done for the past four years, the source said.

National security is intertwined with domestic priorities, and Democrats will be on high ground on outstanding issues, Hoyer said, noting he expects high energy and focus next week when the House returns to continue discussions on these issues.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat who represents thousands of federal workers in the Virginia suburbs, said he would vote to re-open the government, and said assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to address Democratic priorities was helpful in securing his support.

“I will vote to reopen government because we have big challenges that our constituents demand we address like ending sequestration, fighting the opioid crisis, and fixing the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] problem the president created. I will also vote yes because Senator McConnell pledged to finally allow us to address all those issues. His concession to our demands for action is a big victory for the Democrats and the American people.”

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said she plans to vote yes so that negotiations can continue with the government open.

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., a former member of leadership, said that while there remains a lot of distrust, he is leaning yes and that Republicans will have to deal with the public if they renege on their commitment to vote on immigration and other issues.

“Trying to get this done as expeditiously as possible,” a House GOP leadership aide said regarding when the chamber expects the Rules Committee to convene in order to prepare the stopgap for floor action.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the Senate will vote on final passage of the CR around 2:30 p.m. and the House will vote around 4:30 p.m. It will not be brought up under suspension, but he said he expects a strong bipartisan vote.

“I hoped the Democratic leadership learned you do not gain by shutting down,” McCarthy said.

Kellie Mejdrich and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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