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30 Democrats suggest Pelosi give Trump a vote on wall funding if he reopens government

Letter designed to provide clear process, timeline for debate, not guarantee passage

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., led a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, suggesting she allow a vote on President Donald Trump’s border security funding request if he reopens the government. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., led a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, suggesting she allow a vote on President Donald Trump’s border security funding request if he reopens the government. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thirty Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, suggesting she guarantee President Donald Trump a vote on his border security funding request if he reopens the government. 

Led by freshmen Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, the letter lays out a process that would guarantee a House vote — but not passage — on the $5.7 billion Trump has requested in border wall funding, as well as other funding he is seeking for border security needs. 

The letter is not designed to signal support for the president’s funding request. Rather it is intended to lay out a process for the House to truly debate the proposal — with opportunities for Democratic amendments — in hopes that would be enough of a commitment for Trump to agree to reopen the government. 

“Effective governing should not result in winners and losers,” Luria said in a statement after releasing the letter. “Our job is to do the most good for the most people. We feel this proposal would gain support across the aisle, allow a transparent process, and encourage much-needed reforms to our immigration system.” 

Before releasing the letter, Luria told reporters she had given Pelosi a heads-up that the letter would be coming. She said it is not meant to suggest a disagreement with Democratic leadership’s position of not negotiating until the government is reopen.

“My frustration is not with our leadership in the House,” Luria said. “My frustration is in the Senate and the fact that we have voted nine, now 10 times to open the government. So we’ve given all kinds of opportunities for the Senate to take action.”

More than half of the members who signed the letter are freshmen. In a nod to that, the letter notes, “We understand that this shutdown was not caused by the 116th Congress, but it is our job to fix it.”

The 30 Democrats’ suggestion to Pelosi is conditional on the government being reopened. Once that happens, they say, House committees should immediately begin debate on the administration’s Homeland Security supplemental funding request for border security.

“This will allow DHS leadership and relevant experts to explain in detail how the funds will be used and whether this expenditure will have the reported results presented by the president,” the letter reads. 

The Democrats suggest that Pelosi guarantee that the committee debate will be followed up with a floor vote on the supplemental package by the end of February.

That vote should be open to amendment in which members could offer proposals to address gaps in protections for undocumented immigrants who have been or could have been covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure programs. 

“We promised our constituents that we would seek bipartisan solutions, and we feel that this proposal would gain bipartisan support and allow a transparent process to evaluate the true needs of border security and provide much needed reform to our immigration system,” the Democrats said. 

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill did not indicate whether the speaker was interested in the suggestion, saying only, “We agree that the first step should be reopening government.”

In a separate letter to the top congressional leaders in both parties and chambers, members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition — some of whom also signed Luria’s letter — called for a bipartisan, bicameral leadership summit.

The Blue Dogs suggested that congressional leaders “hold a substantive, transparent discussion on a path forward to reopen the government” and produce legislation that can quickly pass both chambers.  

“The American people want to see their leaders talking to one another rather than at one another through the press,” they said. “In an era of divided government, the reality is that only a bipartisan solution will reopen the government, and that requires the leadership of both parties to come together. ”

 The 29 Democrats who joined Luria in her letter are:

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