Freshman Democrats march to McConnell’s office to urge him to reopen government

McConnell should stop taking cues from Trump, bring up House bills, new members say

From left, freshman members Reps. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Susie Lee, D-Nev., and Katie Hill, D-Calif., make their way into the Capitol office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to call on the Senate to act on reopening the government on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A group of roughly a dozen freshman House Democrats on Tuesday marched to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol to ask that he take up House bills to open up government. 

The Kentucky Republican was on the Senate floor when the freshmen stopped by his office, but his staff welcomed them inside. The staff chatted briefly with the new House Democrats and told them they’d set up a meeting with the majority leader.

McConnell’s position has been that the Senate will not take up any government funding bills unless it is a solution agreed to by President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats. 

“The solution to the problem is for the president of the United States, the only person of the 330 million or so of us who can sign something into law, reaches an agreement with the Democratic majority in the House and enough Democrats in the Senate, McConnell said Tuesday. “There’s no way around that. Having show votes in a Senate doesn’t solve the problem.”

What McConnell refers to as “show votes” is what the freshman Democrats called “leadership.” They walked to his office on the second floor from outside of the Capitol, where they held a hastily organized press conference to call on him to show some by breaking from Trump and taking up House-passed bills to reopen government.

“They are not employees of Trump Tower,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said of McConnell and Republican senators.

The  Massachusetts Democrat said the White House has left the American people in the cold with the government shutdown, which she called “a man-made tsunami of hurt.”

New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas said the freshman class was elected to change how Washington works and the shutdown is a prime example of why it needs fixing. 

“This is Washington politics at its worst,” he said. “This is a national embarrassment. We’ve got to end this as quickly as we can.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar compared the shutdown to theatrics one would see on the Netflix show “House of Cards.”

“This president is not as strategic and entertaining as Frank Underwood’s administration,” the Minnesota Democrat said. 

Omar said McConnell should show leadership and not wait for Trump’s permission to bring up legislation to reopen the government. She noted that if Trump were to veto it, Congress has the authority to override the veto. 

The problem, though, is that all the bills House Democrats have passed to reopen the government have fallen short of a two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. But Omar said she believes if it came to it, the House would have the votes to override a veto. 

“At least we have to show the leadership to be willing to take that risk,” she said. “The American people are counting on us to show leadership, and we have done that here in the House. And I hope that the Senate is able to do that.”

McConnell said Tuesday he’s not looking to pass legislation that would prompt a veto or the need to override one.

“In a situation like this where the president, in my view, is in the right place trying to get the right outcome, as all of us have expressed with regard to border security, of course not,” he said.

Asked about that comment, California Rep. TJ Cox said McConnell needs to decide whether he works for Trump or the American people. 

The press conference was led by Reps. Katie Hill and Joe Neguse, the freshman leadership representatives. Neguse said they plan to follow up with a letter to McConnell on Wednesday.

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