As dozens of new lawmakers arrive in Washington, D.C. to start their jobs as members of the House and Senate on Thursday, the 115th Congress is limping to a messy adjournment scenario, with GOP leaders unable to find a solution to end a partial government shutdown, leaving the budget battle over President Donald Trump’s border wall to the new Congress as Democrats prepare to take charge of the House on Thursday when the 116th Congress convenes.
The House is scheduled to convene at noon on Wednesday; the Senate will gavel in at 4 pm – but no votes are scheduled at this point on any legislation related to the shutdown, in what are the final hours of the 115th Congress.
While President Trump went on Twitter to tell Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “Let’s make a deal?” Pelosi seemed uninterested, focused on taking charge in the 116th Congress and taking a different route than the one preferred by the White House, as Congressional leaders will meet with Mr. Trump on Wednesday for the first time since the partial shutdown began – though it wasn’t clear if Democrats would show up for that meeting.
No deal is anticipated on Wednesday, as House Democrats led by Pelosi, who takes charge of the House on Thursday, have already made plans to move within hours to approve a funding plan which would fully re-open the federal government, under a partial shutdown scenario since December 22.
“The new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government on Day One,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).
But even if the House approves that plan, it seems unlikely to go through the Senate – leaving the shutdown situation the same, whether at the end of the 115th Congress, or the start of the 116th Congress.
“Shutdowns benefit no one,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
This shutdown does not impact all agencies of the federal government, as the military, Congress, departments of labor, health, energy, and the VA are among those which have been funded.
But others like the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and agencies like NASA, EPA, and more remain shuttered, with some 800,000 workers uncertain of when they’ll be paid next, whether they have been furloughed, or are being forced to work as ‘essential’ personnel.
One of the more puzzling parts of the government shutdown fight over the last week has been the lack of public comment by President Trump – yes, he has been getting his message out on Twitter daily, but the President has not appeared before television cameras at the White House since Christmas Day.
Mr. Trump had planned to spend 16 days at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, but canceled that in order to stay at the White House for the shutdown – but he had little to show for that decision, other than a lengthy list of tweets.
That will evidently change on Wednesday with a meeting between Congressional leaders and the President, just hours before the 115th Congress comes to an end.