Shutdown Showdown Fizzles: Ryan Expected To Get Enough Dem Votes To Pass Budget

on February 8, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

In a press conference Thursday morning, about 14 hours before a potential government shutdown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated that she plans to vote against the budget bill when it comes back to the lower chamber Thursday afternoon. But when pressed by reporters on whether she will whip her Democratic caucus to vote against the bill, which would imperil its passage, she demurred, saying only that she has told them she personally will vote no even though she views it as “a good bill.”

A few hours later, however, an aide for Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed to TPM that leadership is whipping its members against the bill, blasting out an e-mail noting that the deal “fails to provide a path forward on protecting DREAMers” and asking if they will oppose the legislation. The bill, however, is still expected to pass with a mix of Democratic and Republican votes.

In a letter to her colleagues obtained by TPM, Pelosi wrote Thursday afternoon that “House Democrats have a voice here and we must be heard” and said she personally was voting no on the budget because “Speaker Ryan’s refusal to allow a bipartisan process for a DACA proposal demeans the dignity of the House of Representatives.” The letter did not specifically instruct Democrats to follow her lead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in order to end the government shutdown a few weeks ago, promised Senate Democrats an immigration debate with an open amendment process. Pelosi said she will vote against the bill unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes the same pledge.

“I hope the speaker will man up and decide that we in the House can also have a vote on the floor,” she said Thursday morning, noting that she would even accept a so-called “Queen of the Hill” scenario in which competing immigration bills are all brought to the floor and whichever receives the most votes advances.

Ryan, for his part, reiterated Thursday that he will not bring any immigration bill to the floor unless it already has President Trump’s blessing.

“I don’t want to risk a veto,” he told reporters. “I want to actually get it done. We all want a DACA solution. We all want an immigration solution. I’m confident we can get there.”

Ryan says he will bring a DACA bill to the floor that “the president will sign,” which Democrats fear is code is for a vote only on an ultra-conservative bill that would not grant DACA recipients a path to citizenship, and would, among other controversial provisions, slash federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Unlike McConnell, he has not promised Democrats an open amendment process. “I can’t say what our rule is going to look like,” Ryan said Thursday. “But to anyone who doubts my commitment to solving this problem: do not.”

Because the influential House Freedom Caucus has publicly declared their opposition to the budget bill over its increases in domestic spending, Ryan will need Democratic votes to get the legislation across the finish line and avoid another embarrassing and disruptive shutdown.

“It looks like they need a lot of our votes, and we’re expecting a bunch of our members to vote for it,” a House Democratic aide told TPM. “They’re not actively twisting arms. There’s no path forward on DACA, but they don’t want this to go down.”

In a sign Democratic members feel empowered to buck leadership’s wishes, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee announced Thursday afternoon he would be voting yes on the budget.

Pelosi — who spoke for eight hours straight on the House floor Wednesday in protest of Republicans’ intransigence on immigration — may incur the anger of the party’s progressive base if she does not use Democrats’ full leverage to threaten a shutdown. Because DACA effectively expires on March 5, advocates for those enrolled in the program have few opportunities left to pressure the GOP-controlled Congress to act to protect them.

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