Pressure builds on McConnell in shutdown as Republicans start to peel away

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PBS NewsHour / YouTube WATCH Rep Pelosi holds weekly news...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

The Democratic House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voted to end the government shutdown on its first day in the majority, as promised.

Pressure continues to increase on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to actually lead in finding a way out of the totally absurd government shutdown, a shutdown engineered by the House Freedom Caucus maniacs playing on the weak mind and outsized ego of Individual 1. As Speaker Pelosi and team promised they would do, they passed two bills that represent a smart and potentially even face-saving way out of the shutdown for Trump.

One bill funds all of the non-controversial parts of the government that have nothing to do with border security but are still shut down through inclusion in regular appropriations. The second gives everyone breathing space of a little over a month by continuing funding for Homeland Security while a plan is worked out. It was such a reasonable idea that a handful of Republicans broke ranks to vote for it. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Will Hurd (TX), John Katko (NY), Chris Smith (NJ), and Elise Stefanik (NY) all voted for the continued DHS funding. Fitzpatrick, Hurd, Katko, and Stefanik also voted for the “minibus” bill that funds the other agencies and were joined by Reps. Pete King (NY), Fred Upton (MI), and Greg Walden (OR). So it’s only seven Republicans, but it’s a kind of big deal, this being the first really big vote of the new Congress and an extremely significant one for Pelosi’s leadership.

Meanwhile, two of McConnell’s Republicans are breaking ranks, saying it’s time for the shutdown to end and voicing support for the House-passed bills. Sure, one of them is Susan Collins (ME), who can be relied upon to bleat out regular statements of “concern” and to play the moderate; but the other is Cory Gardner (CO), not normally a wave-maker. Yes, both are up for re-election in 2020 in states won by Clinton in 2016.

Yet McConnell remains solidly with Trump, and, as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) says, “has contracted out the whole Senate Republican caucus to President Trump and the White House.” This morning, ahead of a scheduled meeting between the Democratic leadership and Trump, McConnell reiterated his refusal to bring the House bill—”a time-wasting act of political posturing”—to the floor. He also asserted to reporters that “There’s just no particular role for me when you have this setup,” and that it’s all up to “the president and Nancy and Chuck.”

Because there’s no role at all for the leader of the Senate in governing. Who knew? The Constitution was unavailable for comment.

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