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U.S. House passes bills that would end government shutdown, without wall funds

The U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats now hold a majority backed by new Speaker Nancy Pelosi, approved legislation on Thursday to end a partial government shutdown that began nearly two weeks ago at several federal agencies and fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb 8.
Under the bills, the departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Treasury and other agencies would be funded through Sept 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Hours before the vote, the White House said advisers to President Donald Trump would recommend that he veto the measure if Congress passed it without any additional money for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Thursday marked the first day of divided government in Washington since Trump took office in January 2017, as Democrats took control in the House from his fellow Republicans, who remain in charge of the Senate.
The 2019-2020 Congress convened with roughly a quarter of the federal government closed, affecting 800,000 employees, in a shutdown triggered by Trump's demand last month for the money for a U.S.-Mexican border wall - opposed by Democrats - as part of any legislation funding government agencies.
The House formally picked veteran Democratic lawmaker Pelosi as its speaker, elevating the liberal from San Francisco for her second stint in one of Washington's most powerful jobs.
The two-part Democratic package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb 8, providing $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.
The second part would fund the other federal agencies that are now unfunded including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, through Sept 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Pelosi was cheered by fellow Democrats when she said in a speech on the House floor that the legislation would be voted on later on Thursday. She received 220 votes, Republican Kevin McCarthy got 192 votes and a few others garnered the remaining votes in the 435-seat chamber.
"I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying, that we will seek to reach across the aisle (to the other party) in this chamber and across divisions across our nation," Pelosi said.
Pelosi now is situated to lead Democratic opposition to Trump's agenda and carry out investigations of his administration following two years during which congressional Republicans largely acquiesced to the president.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the Democratic legislation has no future in the Senate, calling it "political theater, not productive lawmaking."
"Let's not waste the time," he said on the Senate floor."Let's not get off on the wrong foot with House Democrats using their platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions."
McConnell said the Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of getting Trump's signature.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer urged McConnell to allow the Democratic legislation to come to a vote in the chamber and said there was no reason to keep parts of the government unrelated to the border security issue shut down because of the wall standoff.
"If Leader McConnell tonight would put the bill that's passing the House on the floor, it would pass," Schumer said, noting that the measures previously have been backed by Senate Republicans.
Congressional leaders from both parties held unproductive talks with Trump at the White House on Wednesday and are to return for another round on Friday, a sign the shutdown is likely to continue at least for the rest of the week.
After the November congressional elections, Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate and Democrats have a 235-199 margin in the House with one seat undecided.
Trump made the wall - a project estimated to cost about $23 billion - a key campaign promise in 2016, saying Mexico would pay for it and arguing it is needed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and medieval.
"No, no. Nothing for the wall," Pelosi said in an interview aired on Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.
Trump on Thursday accused Democrats of playing politics.
"The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The Democrats know they can't win based on all of the achievements of 'Trump,' so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security - and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!"
Credit rating agency Moody's said the shutdown would cause minimal U.S. economic and credit market disruption but there could be a more severe impact on financial markets and the broad economy if the closure is protracted.


© Thomson Reuters 2019.
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