Upon taking the gavel earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared:
“Our nation is at an historic moment. Two months ago, the American people spoke, and demanded a new dawn… They want a Congress that delivers results for the people, opening up opportunity and lifting up their lives.”
Within hours of that speech, House Democrats used their new majority to pass legislation to reopen the government of the United States of America, which has been partially shut due to Donald Trump’s ridiculous demand for more than five billion dollars to ostensibly be used for constructing a wall on the border with Mexico. (Trump said Mexico would pay for it during his campaign, but of course, he was lying, and he has continued to lie each and every day since.)
The House acted on two bills: one to re-open and fund the government until September (H. R. 21) and one to fund the Department of Homeland Security without money for a border wall (H. J. Res 1). Each passed easily.
Seven Republicans broke ranks to help Democrats pass H.R. 21. The total number of votes in favor was two hundred and forty-one. One hundred and ninety votes were cast in opposition, all from the remaining Republicans.
Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA); Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Representative Greg Walden (OR)
Voting Nay: Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA); Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher (ID); Greg Gianforte (MT); Don Young (AK)
Oregon’s Greg Walden was the only Republican from this region to break ranks and vote for the bill. The other Republicans who voted aye on H.R. 21 were Will Hurd of Texas, Peter King of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Elise Stefanik of New York, John Katko of New York, and Fred Upton of Michigan.
The vote for H.R. 1, which preceded the vote for H.R. 21, saw the Pacific Northwest’s delegation divided along party lines, with no Walden defection:
Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA); Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR)
Voting Nay: Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Greg Walden (OR); Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA); Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher (ID); Greg Gianforte (MT); Don Young (AK)
Peter King of New York and Fred Upton of Michigan joined Greg Walden in opposing H.R. 1, but later voting for H.R. 21. Chris Smith of New Jersey was the only Republican to vote for H.R. 1, but against H.R. 21.
Mitch McConnell has vowed not to take up these bills, stupidly insisting that he won’t bring any bill to the floor for a vote that Trump opposes.
(This senseless and indefensible posturing has caused people to joke that McConnell is operating the U.S. Senate like it’s a subcommittee of the White House.)
But McConnell’s caucus is already fracturing. Vulnerable Republicans up in 2020 have started releasing statements saying they want to reopen closed federal agencies, like Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins.
Mitch McConnell has a reputation as a shrewd strategist and tactician, but so does Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker has a proven track record of holding House Democrats together, and her caucus’ position (let’s restore funding and get on with governing) is entirely reasonable, whereas McConnell, who must face voters in Kentucky in 2020, has taken Paul Ryan’s place as Donald Trump’s chief lapdog in Congress.