Washington, Jan 4 (IANS) The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives has passed a spending package aimed at ending the partial government shutdown without paying for President Donald Trump’s border wall, drawing a veto threat from the White House.
The package was expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate, leaving congressional Democrats and the administration at a stalemate that leaves the partial shutdown no closer to getting resolved. It has affected hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have either been furloughed or have had to work without pay.
Trump has said he will reject any measure that does not provide $5 billion in funding for his wall on the Mexican border. Newly-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said no funding for the wall would be made available, CNN reported.
The first bill passed by the House on Thursday in a 239-192 vote was a continuing resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security through February 8 that would not allocate any new wall spending. Five Republicans joined Democrats in approving the legislation.
Then, the House voted 241-190 to approve funds for six agencies, including Departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Labour, Treasury and other agencies through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Democrats say that Trump was holding government funding hostage for the wall, which they feel was “unnecessary and ineffective”.
Congressional leaders from both parties were expected to meet the President for another round of budget talks at the White House on Friday.
The Republican-run Senate has said it may not even vote on the legislation. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans will not back measures that Trump does not support and called the Democrats’ move a “total non-starter” and a “political sideshow”.
Vice President Mike Pence earlier said that “if there’s no wall, there’s no deal” to end the partial government shutdown during an interview with Fox News.
While he expressed openness to negotiating an end to the shutdown, the wall was a clear sticking point: “We are here to make a deal, but it’s a deal that’s going to result in achieving real gains. … We will have no deal without a wall,” Pence said.
The White House had issued a veto threat against the legislation ahead of the expected House vote.
Pelosi criticized the President’s wall as “a waste of money” and “an immorality” during a news conference hours after reclaiming the gavel in the new Congress.
“We’re asking the President to open up government,” she told the Today show before the first session of the new House. “We have given the Republicans a chance to take yes for an answer.”
The partial government shutdown stretched into its 13th day on Thursday, when the new Democratic House majority was sworn in.