Congress

A day of House drama over a resolution blaming Trump for the shutdown

Conservatives disrupt floor proceedings in objection, Democrats amend resolution to appease Republicans

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., forced a House vote Tuesday on a motion to adjourn, because of his objections to a Democratic resolution that blames President Donald Trump for the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans disrupted normal floor proceedings Tuesday because they were upset that the Democratic majority scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution that blamed President Donald Trump for the 35-day partial government shutdown. 

The resolution, sponsored by freshman Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, was ultimately amended to address Republicans’ complaints but not without some partisan squabbling and procedural antics. 

Wexton’s resolution was not on the floor schedule for the week because it was not introduced until Monday. Democratic leaders plan to bring it to the floor for a vote Wednesday under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that requires two-thirds support for passage. 

“There’ll be a resolution on the floor tomorrow — I hope all members will support it — saying shutdown is not an option,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday morning. 

After the original resolution was filed, Republicans objected to specific parts of it referencing the president’s role in the shutdown and quoting House Republicans expressing disapproval for shutdowns as a tactic. Later Tuesday, Democrats amended the resolution to take those portions out ahead of Wednesday’s vote, but not before the complaints spilled into public view on and off the floor. 

The text of the measure starts by expressing the sense of the House that “government shutdowns are detrimental to the nation and should not occur” — a statement so innocuous that in and of itself it would certainly have broad bipartisan support. 

But the original text of the resolution then laid out a series of “whereas” statements that were more partisan in nature. Republicans objected to the ones that laid blame for the shutdown solely at Trump’s feet. 

“Whereas the shutdown resulted from the president of the United States attempting to use a lapse in appropriations in order to achieve a legislative end that he had not achieved in the regular order of the appropriations process,” read one such line of the original resolution that was dropped in the amended resolution.

The original resolution never called out Trump by name but it noted that the president refused to sign legislation to keep the government open due to his “insistence that appropriations for particular items be provided at his preferred levels.” That was also dropped in the amended version. 

Both versions of the resolution list several of the damaging impacts the shutdown had on government agencies, employees and public services. 

The original resolution quoted five Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., expressing disapproval of shutting down the government as a tactic. 

The amended version dropped the McCarthy quote, as well as one from Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson. It retains the McConnell quote and comments from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. 

Both versions of the resolution conclude by noting it’s the sense of the House that shutting down the government “is not an acceptable tactic or strategy for resolving differences regarding policy, funding levels, or governing philosophy” and that “in the future the Congress must ensure the continued, uninterrupted operations of the government.”

Procedural antics

Many House Freedom Caucus members, annoyed at the original resolution’s content and its relatively late addition to the schedule, decided to use procedural tactics to voice their objections. 

That started with Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar calling for a vote on a motion to adjourn, forcing members to leave committee and constituent meetings for an unscheduled floor vote early Tuesday afternoon.

“We are done with Democrats playing games with our border security,” Gosar tweeted. “Today, I called for a motion to adjourn to allow for discussion on Democrats’ resolution attacking @POTUS on border security.”

After the vote, a Roll Call reporter observed a freshman member googling Gosar. 

Another Roll Call reporter was in an elevator when freshman Iowa Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne asked a colleague, “Who did this, Gosar?”

When the colleague affirmed that it was Gosar, Axne said, “No wonder his whole family came out against him.”

She was referring to a campaign ad from the 2018 cycle in which Gosar’s siblings said they would not support his re-election bid. 

Later, the Freedom Caucus continued their objections when Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris objected to a routine laying on the table of the motion to reconsider on a separate resolution expressing the sense of Congress that shutdowns are bad and that financial institutions should do what they can to mitigate the negative effects on those who went without pay.

For most votes, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table without objection. Harris’s decision to object caused the resolution’s sponsor, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, to have to move to reconsider the vote and Hoyer to move to table the motion to reconsider.

A roll call vote was then held on Hoyer’s motion to achieve the same outcome that would normally occur with a simple reading from the chair that the motion to reconsider was laid on the table without objection. 

A senior Democratic aide told Roll Call that Republicans were notified of the plans to amend the resolution before the motion to adjourn.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who was involved in planning the procedural objections, disputed that assessment. 

“There was a sense among a number of Republican members that the resolution was overtly political and very personal in its attack toward the president of the United States and served no purpose other than to make a political statement,” the North Carolina Republican said.

“Once it became obvious that Republicans were going to use procedural tactics to potentially delay a vote on the resolution, Leader McCarthy and Leader Hoyer worked to take the personal nature out of the resolution, which precluded the need for any future procedural moves on the House floor,” Meadows added.

Republican ‘unease’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she hadn’t paid any attention to Republicans’ procedural antics. As for their objections to the Wexton resolution blaming Trump for the shutdown, the California Democrat said, “That’s unease within their own caucus. You’ll have to take it up with them.”

McCarthy said he supported the Freedom Caucus using procedural tactics to object to the resolution. 

“It makes no sense,” the California Republican said of the original resolution, noting that’s not how Democrats should use their new majority.

Meadows, one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, had pointed out that Democrats were bringing the resolution to the floor less than 72 hours of its introduction, which is a violation of House rules per changes the new majority made at the start of the Congress. 

“I just find it just shocking that the Democrats would violate their own House rules so early in for totally partisan political messaging points,” he said.

The House rules, which can be waived, say that it should not be in order to consider a bill or joint resolution that has not been reported by a committee unless it has been available to members for 72 hours. 

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern said the 72-hour rule does not apply in this case because the resolution is being brought up under suspension of the rules — meaning all normal House rules are being waved.

“It’s a suspension,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “If [Republicans] don’t want to vote for it, they’re not going to vote for it.”

McGovern said he didn’t understand the Republicans’ objections to the original resolution, saying the shutdown was Trump’s fault.

“I’m not interested in revisionist history,” he said. “He shut the government down. He owned it. He said he owned it. I mean what’s the controversy?”

Trump did say in a December meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that he would “take the mantle of shutting down” the government over border wall funding. 

Meadows, however, said that both parties deserve blame for the shutdown lasting as long as it did. 

“The blame for a shutdown on day one is very different than the blame for a shutdown on day 35,” he said. “There was no negotiations going on behalf of Democrats in terms of a fair and consistent fully engaged negotiation.”

Will Weiss contributed to this report

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