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House Republicans block passage of anti-shutdown resolution despite removal of language blaming Trump

Meanwhile, House Democrats pass bill to increase federal employees’ pay for 2019

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., dismissed a Democrat-authored resolution expressing disapproval of government shutdowns as a negotiating tactic as a "glorified press release." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., dismissed a Democrat-authored resolution expressing disapproval of government shutdowns as a negotiating tactic as a "glorified press release." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Illustrating the deep partisan divisions that remain following the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last week, the House on Wednesday rejected a symbolic resolution expressing disapproval of shutdowns as a negotiating tactic.

The resolution fell short, 249-163, because most Republicans opposed it, despite Democrats amending it Tuesday to drop language the GOP found objectionable

Typically, minority-party votes wouldn’t determine a measure’s outcome in the House, but Democrats brought up the resolution under suspension of the rules, which requires two-thirds support for passage. 

Meanwhile, Democrats on Wednesday did pass a bill to raise federal employees’ pay, although most Republicans opposed that, too. It passed 259-161, as it was brought to the floor under the normal rule process and only required a simple-majority vote.

The 163 Republicans who voted against the anti-shutdown resolution may have come as a surprise given that Democrats agreed to amend the measure Tuesday after the GOP complained about language blaming President Donald  Trump for the shutdown. They even used procedural floor tactics, like calling for a motion to adjourn, to voice their objection.  

That language blaming the president — along with quotes from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson expressing disapproval for shutdowns — was removed from the amended version.

“Yesterday, members of the Freedom Caucus basically tried to shut down the House of Representatives because they objected to a sentence,” freshman Virginia Democrat Jennifer Wexton, the measure’s sponsor, said during floor debate on the resolution. “The offending clause has been removed from this resolution, and it should not be a problem anymore.”

The resolution, as amended, expresses the sense of the House that “government shutdowns are detrimental to the nation and should not occur.”

It includes several “whereas statements” outlining the impacts of the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended Friday after Congress passed and Trump signed a three-week continuing resolution

Shutting down the government “is not an acceptable tactic or strategy for resolving differences regarding policy, funding levels, or governing philosophy,” the resolution reads. “In the future the Congress must ensure the continued, uninterrupted operations of the government.”

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who led the floor debate for Republicans on the resolution, dismissed the measure as a “political stunt,” despite the amended language. 

“This resolution doesn’t do anything to stop future shutdowns,” the North Carolina Republican said. “It’s designed in its purpose to give cover to the other side of the aisle.”

McCarthy called the resolution a “glorified press release,” saying Democrats are “using this chamber to settle political scores.”

Rep. William Lacy Clay, who led the floor debate for Democrats, took issue with the GOP characterizations. 

“This resolution is about compassion and respect for fellow Americans who happen to be federal workers,” the Missouri lawmaker said. 

Only 21 Republicans voted for the anti-shutdown resolution: Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska; Susan W. Brooks of Indiana; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Bill Flores, Will Hurd and Michael McCaul of Texas; Anthony Gonzalez and David Joyce of Ohio; John Katko and Elise Stefanik of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Bill Posey of Florida; Denver Riggleman and Rob Wittman of Virginia; Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey; Pete Stauber of Minnesota; Bryan Steil of Wisconsin; Fred Upton of Michigan; Ann Wagner of Missouri; and Greg Walden of Oregon.

Federal employee pay increase

The bill to provide a 2.6 percent pay raise for federal employees for the remainder of 2019 earned more minority-party support, with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it. 

The measure seeks to override administration action Trump took to freeze wages for government workers. Military members are exempt from the freeze because Congress already passed a pay increase for them last year.

The 2.6 percent increase is meant to provide for cost of living adjustments and is equal to the raise previously provided for the troops. Most Republicans who objected to the measure argued that pay raises should be performance-based, not unilateral. 

The bill initially would have kept the statutory pay freeze for Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet officials and other senior White House political appointees, but that provision was removed through a self-executing rule governing floor debate for the measure.

The House adopted amendments to the bill before its passage that would ensure the 2.6 percent increase would apply to Secret Service members and certain National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Internal Revenue Service employees. 

Republicans used procedural motions available to the minority to call attention to the fact that the bill does not provide exceptions to the pay raise for employees who have outstanding tax debt or who have been disciplined for sexual misconduct. Those motions, designed to stall the measure, were rejected.

The 29 Republicans who voted with Democrats to increase federal employees pay were Fitzpatrick, Fortenberry, Gonzalez, Hurd, Joyce, Katko, Kinzinger, McCaul, Smith, Stauber, Stefanik, Upton, Walden, Wittman, Rob Bishop of Utah, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Chris Collins, Peter T. King and Lee Zeldin of New York, Paul Cook of California, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, Bill Johnson and Mike Turner of Ohio, David McKinley and Alex X. Mooney of West Virginia and Don Young of Alaska.

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