As a partial U.S. government shutdown neared the three-week mark, Democrats on Wednesday were set to test Republicans’ resolve in backing President Donald Trump’s drive to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats plan to advance a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies partially shut down since December 22.
Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service and voting to keep it partially shut.
In a countermove, the Trump administration said on Tuesday that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.
But it was the Republican president’s insistence on a massive barrier on the border that dominated the Washington debate and sparked a political blame game.
In a nationally televised address on Tuesday night, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” referring to murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, responding to Trump, said he and the president both wanted stronger border security but disagreed over the most effective approach.
“Most presidents have used (White House) Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” Schumer said.
Later this week, Pelosi will force votes that one by one provide the money to operate departments ranging from Homeland Security and Justice to State, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.
By using a Democratic majority to ram those bills through the House, Pelosi is hoping enough Senate Republicans back her up and abandon Trump’s wall gambit.