The Democratic-controlled House has approved legislation aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections and strengthening ethics standards. But it stands little chance in the Republican-run Senate.
The House measure would make it easier to register and vote, and would tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
Election Day would become a holiday for federal workers, and a public financing system for congressional campaigns would be set up. The legislation approved 234-193 would bar voter roll purges such as those seen in Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere, and restore voting rights for ex-prisoners.
Republicans call it a Democratic power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it’s dead on arrival in that chamber.
Divided in debate but mostly united in a final vote, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry. Democrats are trying to push past a dispute that has overwhelmed their agenda and exposed fault lines that could shadow them through next year’s elections.
The one-sided 407-23 vote Thursday belied the emotional infighting over how to respond to freshman Rep. lIhan Omar’s recent comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. For days, Democrats wrestled with whether or how to punish the Minnesota Democratic lawmaker, arguing over whether Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, should be singled out, what other types of bias should be decried in the text and whether the party would tolerate dissenting views on Israel.
Republicans generally joined in the favorable vote, though nearly two-dozen opposed the measure, one calling it a “sham.”
Generational as well as ideological, the argument was fueled in part by young, liberal lawmakers — and voters — who have become a face of the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House. These lawmakers are critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, rejecting the conservative leader’s approach to Palestinians and other issues.
They split sharply from Democratic leaders who seemed caught off guard by the support for Omar and unprepared for the debate. But the leaders regrouped.
“It’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote.
The resolution approved Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities “as hateful expressions of intolerance.” Omar, a Somali-American, and fellow Muslims Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Andrew Carson of Indiana, issued a statement praising the “historic” vote as the first resolution to condemn “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Some Democrats complained that Omar’s comments on Israel had ignited all this debate while years of President Donald Trump’s racially charged rhetoric had led to no similar congressional action.
The seven-page document details a history of recent attacks not only against Jews in the United States but also Muslims, as it condemns all such discrimination as contradictory to “the values and aspirations” of the people of the United States. The vote was delayed for a time on Thursday to include mention of Latinos to address concerns of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It was inserted under a section on white supremacists who “weaponize hate for political gain” over a long list of “traditionally persecuted peoples.”
An earlier version focused more narrowly on anti-Semitism. The final resolution did not mention Omar by name.
Getting this debate right will be crucial for Democrats in 2020. U.S.-Israel policy is a prominent issue that is exposing the splits between the party’s core voters, its liberal flank and the more centrist Americans in Trump country the party hopes to reach.
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong,” said presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world,” the senator said. “We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel.”
Other Democratic presidential contenders tried to walk a similar line.
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said “we need to speak out against hate.” But she said she also believes “there is a critical difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.”
A statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, “Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.” She said threats of violence, including those made against Omar, “are never acceptable.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, they are allowed to have free speech in this country,” Gillibrand said. “But we don’t need to use anti-Semitic tropes or anti-Muslim tropes to be heard.”
Another member of the new crop of outspoken young House freshmen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, said the final product, as well as the way presidential candidates are now talking about the issue, showed “there’s been some really great progress we’ve made.”
But Omar’s rhetoric is taking Democrats to a place that leaves many uneasy. The new lawmaker sparked a weeklong debate in Congress as fellow Democrats said her comments have no place in the party. She suggested Israel’s supporters were pushing lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance” to a foreign country, reviving a trope of dual loyalties. It wasn’t her first dip into such rhetoric.
The new congresswoman has been critical of the Jewish state in the past and apologized for those previous comments. But Omar has not apologized for what this latest comment.
Pelosi said she did not believe that Omar understood the “weight of her words” or that they would be perceived by some as anti-Semitic.
Asked whether the resolution was intended to “police” lawmakers’ words, Pelosi replied: “We are not policing the speech of our members. We are condemning anti-Semitism,” Islamophobia and white supremacy.
Some of the House’s leading Jewish Democrats wanted to bring a resolution on the floor simply condemning anti-Semitism.
But other Democrats wanted to broaden the resolution to include a rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry. Others questioned whether a resolution was necessary at all and viewed it as unfairly singling out Omar at a time when Trump and others have made disparaging racial comments.
There remained frustration that the party that touts its diversity conducted such a messy and public debate about how to declare its opposition to bigotry.
“This shouldn’t be so hard,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said on the House floor.
Among the Republican dissenters, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, called the resolution “a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”
In part, Democratic leaders were trying to fend off a challenge from Republicans on the issue.
They worry they could run into trouble on another bill, their signature ethics and voting reform package, if Republicans try to tack their own anti-Semitism bill on as an amendment. By voting Thursday, the House Democratic vote counters believed they could inoculate their lawmakers against such a move.
Associated Press writers Padmananda Rama, Mary Clare Jalonick, Elana Schor, Juana Summers and Doug Glass contributed to this report.
Follow Mascaro and Kellman on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/LisaMascaro and http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
President Donald Trump’s former lawyer is returning to Capitol Hill for a fourth day of testimony as Democrats pursue a flurry of investigations into Trump’s White House, businesses and presidential campaign.
Michael Cohen became a key figure in those investigations after turning on his former boss and cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. He was interviewed behind closed doors by both the Senate and House intelligence committees last week and is due for another private, daylong meeting with the House intelligence panel on Wednesday.
Cohen also testified publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he called Trump a con man, a cheat and a racist. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and other charges and is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.
Among the issues discussed in Cohen’s closed-door interviews with both the House and the Senate was the issue of pardons, according to people familiar with those interviews. They requested anonymity to speak about the confidential discussion.
The issue is expected to come up again during Cohen’s return visit. Though Cohen told Congress last week that he had never asked for nor would accept a pardon from Trump, a lawyer for Cohen expressed interest to the Trump legal team in a possible pardon for his client in the aftermath of a raid last April on Cohen’s hotel room, home and office, according to people familiar with the encounter who weren’t authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The president’s attorneys were noncommittal during the conversation with Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, the people said. Cohen did not participate in the conversation.
No pardon was given, and Cohen ultimately wound up pleading guilty and cooperating against the president in separate investigations by the special counsel and by federal prosecutors in New York. Another of Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny Davis, said on MSNBC Tuesday evening that Cohen was referring to the time after he turned on Trump when he testified that he wouldn’t accept a pardon.
There is nothing inherently improper about a subject in a criminal investigation seeking a pardon from a president given the president’s wide latitude in granting them. But lawmakers have requested information about talks on possible pardons for Cohen and other defendants close to the president who have become entangled in Mueller’s investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said after last week’s private meeting with Cohen that the committee had “additional document requests” that they were discussing with him. Schiff would not comment on the substance of the interview, but said it helped “to shed light on a lot of issues that are very core to our investigation.”
The intelligence panel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians in any way. They are also looking into Trump’s foreign financial dealings and whether there was obstruction of justice. It is one of several probes Democrats have launched in recent weeks as they delve deeper into Trump’s political and personal dealings.
On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sent 81 letters to Trump’s family and associates seeking documents and information. Nadler said he would investigate possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of negotiations over a Trump real estate project in Moscow. In addition, he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump, affairs that Trump denies.
Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”
Cohen said in the Oversight testimony that Trump directed him to arrange the hush money payment to Daniels. He said the president arranged to reimburse Cohen, and Cohen brought to the hearing a check that he said was proof of the transaction.
Declaring it’s “very clear” President Donald Trump obstructed justice, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says the panel is requesting documents Monday from more than 60 people from Trump’s administration, family and business as part of a rapidly expanding Russia investigation.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the House Judiciary Committee wants to review documents from the Justice Department, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn also are likely targets, he said.
“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice,” Nadler said. “We will do everything we can to get that evidence.”
Asked if he believed Trump obstructed justice, Nadler said, “Yes, I do.”
Nadler isn’t calling the inquiry an impeachment investigation but said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability.”
“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he said.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump blasted anew the Russia investigation, calling it a partisan probe unfairly aimed at discrediting his win in the 2016 presidential election. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start – And only because I won the Election!” he wrote.
Nadler’s comments follow a bad political week for Trump. He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization and Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterized the president as a “con man” and “cheat.”
Newly empowered House Democrats are flexing their strength with blossoming investigations. A half-dozen House committees are now probing alleged coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, Trump’s tax returns and possible conflicts of interest involving the Trump family business and policy-making. The House oversight committee, for instance, has set a Monday deadline for the White House to turn over documents related to security clearances after The New York Times reported that the president ordered officials to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s clearance over the objections of national security officials.
Nadler’s added lines of inquiry also come as special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to be wrapping up his work into possible questions of Trump campaign collusion and obstruction in the Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. In his testimony, Cohen acknowledged he did not witness or know directly of collusion between Trump aides and Russia but had his “suspicions.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Sunday accused House Democrats of prejudging Trump as part of a query based purely on partisan politics.
“I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election,” McCarthy said. “Listen to exactly what he said. He talks about impeachment before he even became chairman and then he says, ‘you’ve got to persuade people to get there.’ There’s nothing that the president did wrong.”
“Show me where the president did anything to be impeached…Nadler is setting the framework now that the Democrats are not to believe the Mueller report,” he said.
Nadler said Sunday his committee will seek to review the Mueller report but stressed the investigation “goes far beyond collusion.”
He pointed to what he considered several instances of obstruction of justice by the president, including the “1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a ‘witch hunt’” as well Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey in 2017. According to Comey, Trump had encouraged the then-FBI director to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has denied he told Comey to end the Flynn probe.
“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” Nadler said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has kept calls for impeachment at bay by insisting that Mueller first must be allowed to finish his work, and present his findings publicly — though it’s unclear whether the White House will allow its full release.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House intelligence committee, on Sunday also stressed that it’s too early to make judgments about impeachment.
“That is something that we will have to await Bob Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence to determine. We will also have to look at the whole body of improper and criminal actions by the president including those campaign finance crimes to determine whether they rise to the level of removal from office,” Schiff said.
Nadler and McCarthy spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Schiff appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
A House committee will hold its first hearing on gun violence in years. Two others will gavel in to address climate change. And three more will debate protecting pre-existing health conditions and the Affordable Care Act.
That’s before noon on Wednesday.
After eight years in the minority, House Democrats are about to uncork their bottled-up legislative energy. The agenda goes beyond oversight of President Donald Trump’s administration and Russian election interference to the bread-and-butter issues of jobs, health care and the economy. Far from the House floor, the grunt work of governing will play out in the confines of the committee rooms, on the day after Trump’s State of the Union address.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., a member of party leadership.
House Democrats got off to a rough start in the new Congress as the 35-day government shutdown jammed the agenda, frustrating some lawmakers and halting the energetic freshmen class that swept to power in the midterm election.
With the longest government closure over, for now, the new House majority is eager to deliver on its promises before the next election shifts attention yet again.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a calculation after the midterm election to forego a traditional 100-days agenda — or the 100-hours to-do list she rolled out in 2007, the last time Democrats had the majority — in favor of a return to the legislative process.
It’s partly a nod to the diverse majority whose members hold different views on some issues. But it’s also a part of Democrats’ efforts to revive traditional governing, rather than lurching from crisis to crisis, as had become the norm when Republicans were unable to control their often unruly conservative flank. Under new House rules, every bill must pass through committee before coming to a vote on the floor.
They may not want to put it this way, but House Democrats are trying to make Congress great again.
James Curry, an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, said Democrats have a short window to capture the public’s attention. “They want to show voters they can legislate, they can run the government, they can do the things they said they’re going to do,” he said.
“Reality,” Curry added, “is obviously more complicated than that.”
Much of the House’s legislative product will fall flat in the Senate, where Republicans retain majority control, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to ensure his chamber serves as a backstop to prevent Democratic bills from landing on Trump’s desk.
In some ways, the prospect of divided government frees up Democrats to simply pass the bills they prefer, without much interest in the bipartisanship that would be needed for Trump to sign them into law.
The more likely result is that the legislative agenda sets the stage for the next election, in 2020, when voters will be assessing not only the performance of the new majority but also which party they prefer in the White House.
This month, Democrats expect to pass H.R. 1, a sweeping reform of campaign finance and voting rights laws, and then turn to legislation to expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms.
In announcing the first gun-violence hearing for the House Judiciary Committee in at least eight years, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said that “for far too long, Republicans in Congress have offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies. That era is over.”
Several committees have posted videos ahead of their hearings in movie-like trailers to the coming action.
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, promised a month of hearings on climate change — the first sustained look at the topic for his panel since 2009.
“What we have not seen from this committee in a decade-plus is attention to climate change,” Grijalva said, alongside video clips of Trump calling climate change a “hoax.” ″On the contrary. We’ve seen a pattern of denial.”
As other lawmakers, including some newly elected freshmen, join on screen, Grijalva says, “Now we’re at a point with this new majority that that is going to change.”
The Foreign Affairs Committee will debate the war in Yemen, and consider a war powers resolution to halt U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is among several panels delving into health care and also climate change. The Oversight Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on ethics in the executive branch. And the Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing taking stock of the recent government shutdown.
Next week’s agenda is shaping up to be almost as full.
Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues this week that the committees are “moving forward.” She noted that 18 freshmen have been named chairs of subcommittees. The last time Democrats welcomed such a big class of freshmen, the Watergate class of 1974, no freshmen had such assignments.
Curry said the robust committee strategy serves a purpose for leaders, too. “Why not open the process up a little bit and let everybody express themselves?” he said. “It’s a nice way to give everybody something to do.”
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
Veteran Republican Rep. Steve King will be blocked from committee assignments for the next two years after lamenting that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.
King, in his ninth term representing Iowa, will not be given committee assignments in the Congress that began this month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday night. King served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees in the last Congress, and he chaired Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
McCarthy, R-Calif., called King’s remarks “beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America.”
King’s comments “call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity,” McCarthy said, adding: “House Republicans are clear: We are all in this together, as fellow citizens equal before God and the law.”
The action by the GOP steering committee came after King and McCarthy met Monday to discuss the remarks on white supremacy, the latest in a years-long pattern of racially insensitive remarks by King.
King called McCarthy’s decision to remove him from committees “a political decision that ignores the truth.” He vowed to “continue to point out the truth and work with all the vigor that I have to represent 4th District Iowans for at least the next two years.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced King earlier Monday, saying, “There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats moved to formally punish King. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking House Democrat and the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, introduced a formal resolution of disapproval late Monday.
Addressing what he called “a tale of two kings,” Clyburn said the Iowa lawmaker’s remarks were offensive because they embraced evil concepts.
Invoking the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — whose 90th birthday will be celebrated on Tuesday — Clyburn called on colleagues from both parties “to join me in breaking the deafening silence and letting our resounding condemnation be heard.”
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said he will introduce a censure resolution, a more serious action by the House, that Rush said would announce to the world that Congress has no home for “repugnant and racist behavior.”
“As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said Monday in a statement that also called on Republicans to strip King of his committee memberships until he apologizes.
A third Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, introduced a separate censure resolution against King.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we all have a responsibility to call out Rep. King’s hateful and racist comments,” Ryan said, noting that the white supremacy comments were not the first time King has made headlines for inappropriate language.
The text of Rush’s censure resolution lists more than a dozen examples of King’s remarks, beginning with comments in 2006 in which he compared immigrants to livestock and ending with his lamentation in the New York Times last week that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.
McConnell, in his statement, said he has “no tolerance” for the positions offered by King, and said “those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”
One Republican did not join the chorus of criticism. Asked about King’s remarks Monday, President Donald Trump said, “I haven’t been following it.”
King on Friday suggested he’s been misunderstood. He said on the House floor that the interview with the Times was in part a “discussion of other terms that have been used, almost always unjustly labeling otherwise innocent people. The word racist, the word Nazi, the word fascist, the phrase white nationalists, the phrase white supremacists.”
King said he was only wondering aloud: “How did that offensive language get injected into our political dialogue? Who does that, how does it get done, how do they get by with laying labels like this on people?”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is the only black Republican in the Senate, cast King’s remarks and those like them as a blemish on the country and the Republican Party.
“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott wrote in an op-ed last week in The Washington Post.
“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” Scott wrote.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also condemned King, telling CNN Monday that King “doesn’t have a place in our party” or in Congress and should resign.
King’s position in the GOP had been imperiled even before his remarks about white supremacy.
Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, in which King was running, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, then the head of the GOP campaign committee, issued an extraordinary public denunciation of him.
King has already drawn a primary challenger for the 2020 election: Randy Feenstra, a GOP state senator. Feenstar said Monday, “Sadly, today, the voters and conservative values of our district have lost their seat at the table because of Congressman King’s caustic behavior.”
With no weekend breakthrough to end a prolonged partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump is standing firm in his border wall funding demands and newly empowered House Democrats are planning to step up pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers to reopen the government.
Trump showed no signs of budging on his demand for more than $5 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, though on Sunday he did offer to build it with steel rather than concrete, a concession Democrats panned.
With the shutdown lurching into a third week, many Republicans watched nervously from the sidelines as hundreds of thousands of federal workers went without pay and government disruptions hit the lives of ordinary Americans.
White House officials affirmed Trump’s funding request in a letter to Capitol Hill after a meeting Sunday with senior congressional aides led by Vice President Mike Pence at the White House complex yielded little progress. The letter from Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought sought funding for a “steel barrier on the Southwest border.”
The White House said the letter, as well as details provided during the meeting, sought to answer Democrats’ questions about the funding request. Democrats, though, said the administration still failed to provide a full budget of how it would spend the billions requested for the wall from Congress. Trump campaigned on a promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico has refused.
The letter includes a request for $800 million for “urgent humanitarian needs,” a reflection of the growing anxiety over migrants traveling to the border — which the White House said Democrats raised in the meetings. And it repeats some existing funding requests for detention beds and security officers, which have already been panned by Congress and would likely find resistance among House Democrats.
Trump sought to frame a steel barrier as progress, saying Democrats “don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel.” The president has already suggested his definition of the wall is flexible, but Democrats have made clear they see a wall as immoral and ineffective and prefer other types of border security funded at already agreed upon levels.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to begin passing individual bills to reopen agencies in the coming days, starting with the Treasury Department to ensure people receive their tax refunds. That effort is designed to squeeze Senate Republicans, some of whom are growing increasingly anxious about the extended shutdown.
Among the Republicans expressing concerns was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should take up bills from the Democratic-led House.
“Let’s get those reopened while the negotiations continue,” Collins said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Adding to concerns, federal workers might miss this week’s paychecks. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that if the shutdown continues into Tuesday, “then payroll will not go out as originally planned on Friday night.”
Trump reaffirmed that he would consider declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and spend money as he saw fit. Such a move would seem certain to draw legal challenges.
Incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said on ABC’s “This Week” that the executive power has been used to build military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan but would likely be “wide open” to a court challenge for a border wall. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called the idea a “nonstarter.”
Trump also asserted that he could relate to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t getting paid, though he acknowledged they will have to “make adjustments” to deal with the shutdown shortfall.
Associated Press writer Julie Walker in New York, Jill Colvin in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had only been in office for a few hours when a handful of Democrats defied her persistent calls not to begin the new Congress by talking about impeachment.
Just after Pelosi was sworn in Thursday, longtime Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman of California and Al Green of Texas introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. That evening, newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profanity and predicting that he will be removed from office.
Tension over impeachment is likely to be a persistent thorn for Pelosi, who will have to balance between a small, vocal group of the most liberal members of her caucus, who want to see Trump removed immediately, and the majority of her members who want to wait for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to finish. Pelosi purposely avoided — and encouraged most fellow Democrats to avoid — any talk of impeachment during the election, believing there could be backlash from voters.
While eager to paint impeachment as the Democrats’ only agenda, Trump has also expressed some worry both publicly and privately at the prospect. He has told confidants that he finds the impeachment talk somewhat unnerving, according to an outside adviser who spoke to him in recent days.
The president, who has long fashioned himself as the ultimate winner, told the confidant that he worried that impeachment, even if he retained office, would be a stain on his legacy. And while he thought the impeachment would rally his own base in the 2020 election it could hurt his standing with foreign leaders as he negotiates trade deals, according to the adviser.
While many Democrats might favor impeachment, those calling for it now are largely outliers. Most Democratic lawmakers listened to Pelosi and campaigned on kitchen table issues such as health care and jobs and prefer to keep them at the forefront of the party’s focus.
Still, it will be hard for Pelosi to quiet some on her left flank who see their new majority as a direct challenge to Trump.
“Impeachment is on the table,” Sherman said. “You can’t take it off the table.”
Tlaib, who represents a liberal district in Detroit, exclaimed at an event late Thursday that Democrats were going to “impeach the mother——.” She didn’t back down Friday, tweeting that “I will always speak truth to power.” She added the hashtag, ”#unapologeticallyMe.”
Her spokesman, Denzel McCampbell, said in a statement that Tlaib, one of only two Muslim women in Congress, “was elected to shake up Washington” and will not stay silent.
“The congresswoman absolutely believes he needs to be impeached. She ran and won by making this very clear to the voters in her district,” McCampbell said.
Pelosi said Friday at an MSNBC town hall said she wouldn’t censor her colleagues, and that Tlaib’s language was no worse than things Trump has said.
Still, Pelosi said she didn’t like the language and wouldn’t use it. She said, as she has many times before, that the House shouldn’t move to impeach Trump without more facts and that she believes impeachment is divisive.
The prospect of that division delights Republicans, who have used impeachment calls to fire up their base of voters. Trump immediately seized on the topic, asking in a tweet Friday, “How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong.”
Speaking later Friday to reporters in the Rose Garden, Trump said he thought Tlaib’s comments were “disgraceful” and she “dishonored herself.”
At a meeting at the White House Friday on the government shutdown, Trump opened his remarks with his concerns about impeachment, according to a White House official and a tweet from Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill.
Trump said that Pelosi assured him during the meeting that “we’re not looking to impeach you,” and that he replied “that’s good, Nancy, that’s good.”
Hammill later tweeted a slightly different recap: “Speaker Pelosi made clear that today’s meeting was about re-opening government, not impeachment.”
There has been some discussion in Trump’s orbit about how to deal with a possible impeachment effort. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led impeachment efforts against President Bill Clinton two decades ago, encouraged conservatives to foster what he believes would be counter-productive impeachment talk among Democrats. The 1998 battle backfired on Republicans, who were seen as overreaching while Clinton’s poll numbers rose.
“Make it the speaker’s problem, make her deal with the nutty wing of her party,” Gingrich said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Top Democrats have so far supported Pelosi’s cautious approach to impeachment, with House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler also saying that it is a divisive, even traumatic, process that should only be done with Republican support. Both Nadler and Pelosi were in Congress during Clinton’s impeachment.
Sherman and Green forced votes to impeach Trump in 2017 and 2018, but the Republican House blocked those resolutions twice, with the help of many Democrats who said the effort was premature.
Even if the House should approve articles of impeachment — very unlikely at present — a two-thirds-majority vote to convict Trump in the Republican-led Senate and remove him from office would seem out of the question, barring new revelations or a dramatic decline in the president’s political support.
Many Democrats on Friday distanced themselves from Tlaib’s words. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he doesn’t think “comments like these particularly help.” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said the comments were “inappropriate” and go against efforts to reclaim civility.
Other Democrats were more forgiving, even if they disagreed.
“I think some of our new members probably don’t realize that you are always on, that when you are a member of Congress, there’s always someone listening,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly said the comments were just “red meat” for Tlaib’s supporters.
“I think it’s a forgivable sin, an outburst of exuberance with her and her supporters, and I think we all need to move on,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect the caucus, and I’m sure upon reflection, she might choose other words to describe her feelings.”
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Deb Riechmann, Alan Fram, Kevin Freking and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
On their first day in the majority, House Democrats have passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.
The largely party-line votes Thursday night came after Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room, pledging to keep up the fight for his signature campaign promise.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump and Senate Republicans should “take yes for an answer” and approve the border bill, which was virtually identical to a plan the Senate adopted on a voice vote last month.
“We’re not doing a wall. Does anyone have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall?” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference Thursday night.
Pelosi, who was elected speaker earlier Thursday, also took a shot a Trump, calling his proposal “a wall between reality and his constituents.”
Trump strode into the White House briefing room Thursday — the 13th day of the partial government shutdown —and declared that “without a wall you cannot have border security.” He then left without taking questions from reporters.
The appearance came hours after the new Congress convened, with Democrats taking majority control of the House and returning Pelosi to the speakership after eight years of GOP control. The Democratic legislation to re-open the government without funding the wall is going nowhere in the Senate, where Republicans want Trump’s endorsement before voting on a funding package.
Trump is demanding billions of dollars to build his wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which the Democrats have refused.
Asked if she would give Trump $1 for a wall to reopen the government, Pelosi said: “One dollar? Yeah, one dollar. The fact is a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”
Congressional leaders from both parties met with Trump at the White House Wednesday, but failed to make progress during their first sit-down in weeks. The White House has invited the leaders back Friday for another round of talks that officials have suggested might be more successful now that Pelosi has been sworn in.
Reporters were told Thursday that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be holding a hastily called late afternoon briefing. Instead, out walked Trump, flanked by members of the unions that represent border patrol and immigration enforcement agents. It was his first time delivering remarks at the briefing room podium.
“You can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want,” Trump said. “But essentially we need protection in our country. We’re going to make it good. The people of our country want it.”
Trump said his meeting with the union officials had long been planned and just happened to come at “a very opportune time.” He also claimed his refusal to budge was winning praise, telling reporters, “I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security.”
Polls show a majority of Americans oppose the border wall, although Republicans strongly support it.
White House and Department of Homeland Security officials have spent recent days trying to make a public and private case that the situation at the border has reached a “crisis” situation that demands more money than Democrats have offered.
Trump tweeted an ominous video Thursday with images of what appeared to be migrants trying to rush the border and clashing with law enforcement, beneath the words “crisis at the border,” ″drugs” and “crime.” The video concludes with footage of Trump at the border along with audio from one of his rallies in which he vows to build his promised border wall and the crowd chants “Build the wall!”
The Democratic package to end the shutdown includes a bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels — with $1.3 billion for border security, far less than Trump has said he wants— through Feb. 8 as bipartisan talks would continue. It was approved, 239-192.
Democrats also approved a separate measure to fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others closed by the partial shutdown, at levels Senate Republicans had largely agreed to last year. The bill, which would provide money through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, was approved, 241-190, with several House Republicans joining Democrats.
The White House has rejected the Democratic package.
“Why not fully fund the Department of Homeland Security? Why doesn’t the Pelosi bill do that?” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the House Democratic package on the Senate floor and send it to the president, saying it would show Trump “the sweet light of reason.”
McConnell has dismissed the idea as a “total nonstarter” and a waste of time.
But some Republican senators appeared open to at least part of the Democrats’ proposal.
“I’m not saying their whole plan is a valid plan, but I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go and on which we’ve achieved an agreement should be held hostage to this debate over border security,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
“Congress needs to take further action on border security, but that work should be done when the government is fully open,” added Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was on the Hill Thursday to swear in new senators, took a hard line, telling Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, “Bottom line, if there’s no wall, there’s no deal.”
Trump has said the partial shutdown, which began Dec. 22, will last “as long as it takes” to get the funding he wants.
The White House said Trump made calls Thursday to the family of Cpl. Ronil Singh, the Newman, California, police officer shot to death during a Dec. 26 traffic stop. The suspected shooter is a Mexican man accused of living in the U.S. illegally. Republicans have seized on the case to call for tougher border security.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
Cheering Democrats returned Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker’s post Thursday as the 116th Congress ushered in a historically diverse freshman class eager to confront President Donald Trump in a new era of divided government.
Pelosi, elected speaker 220-192, took the gavel saying U.S. voters “demanded a new dawn” in the November election that swept the Democrats to a House majority and are looking to “the beauty of our Constitution” to provide checks and balances on power. She faced 15 dissenting votes from fellow Democrats.
For a few hours, the promise of a new era was the order of the day. The new speaker invited scores of lawmakers’ kids to join her on the dais as she was sworn in, calling the House to order “on behalf of all of America’s children.”
Even Trump congratulated her during a rare appearance at the White House briefing room, saying her election by House colleagues was “a tremendous, tremendous achievement.” The president has tangled often with Pelosi and is sure to do so again with Democrats controlling the House, but he said, “I think it’ll be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking.”
As night fell, the House quickly got to work on the partial government shutdown, which was winding up Day 13 with Trump demanding billions in Mexican border wall funding to bring it to an end. Democrats approved legislation to re-open the government — but without the $5.6 billion in wall money, which means it has no chance in the Republican Senate.
The new Congress is like none other. There are more women than ever before, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans is creating a House more aligned with the population of the United States. However, the Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men, and in the Senate Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.
In a nod to the moment, Pelosi, the first female speaker who reclaimed the post she lost to the GOP in 2011, broadly pledged to make Congress work for all Americans — addressing kitchen table issues at a time of deep economic churn — even as her party readies to challenge Trump with investigations and subpoena powers that threaten the White House agenda.
Pelosi promised to “restore integrity to government” and outlined an agenda “to lower health costs and prescription drug prices and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions; to increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea.”
The day unfolded as one of both celebration and impatience. Newly elected lawmakers arrived, often with friends and families in tow, to take the oath of office and pose for ceremonial photos. Then they swiftly turned to the shutdown.
Vice President Mike Pence swore in newly elected senators, but Senate Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no plans to consider the House bills unless Trump agreed to sign them into law. That ensured the shutdown would continue, clouding the first days of the new session.
McConnell said that Republicans have shown the Senate is “fertile soil for big, bipartisan accomplishments,” but that the question is whether House Democrats will engage in “good governance or political performance art.”
It’s a time of stark national political division that some analysts say is on par with the Civil War era. Battle lines are drawn not just between Democrats and Republicans but within the parties themselves, splintered by their left and right flanks.
Pelosi defied history in returning to the speaker’s office after eight years in the minority, overcoming internal opposition from Democrats demanding a new generation of leaders. She will be the first to regain the gavel since Sam Rayburn of Texas in 1955.
Putting Pelosi’s name forward for nomination, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the incoming Democratic caucus chair, recounted her previous accomplishments — passing the Affordable Care Act, helping the country out of the Great Recession — as preludes to her next ones. He called her leadership “unparalleled in modern American history.”
One Democrat, Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, cast her vote for Pelosi “on the shoulders of women who marched 100 years ago” for women’s suffrage. Newly elected Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, an anti-gun violence advocate, dedicated hers to her slain teenage son, Jordan Davis.
As speaker, Pelosi will face challenges from the party’s robust wing of liberal newcomers, including 29-year-old New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has risen to such prominence she is already known around the Capitol — and on her prolific social media accounts — by the nickname “AOC.” California Rep. Brad Sherman introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, though for now the measures are largely symbolic.
Republicans face their own internal battles as they decide how closely to tie their political fortunes to Trump. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s name was put into nomination for speaker by his party’s caucus chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of the former vice president. He faced six “no” votes from his now-shrunken GOP minority.
As McCarthy passed the gavel to Pelosi he said voters wonder if Congress is “still capable” of solving problems, and said this period of divided government is “no excuse for gridlock.”
One office remains disputed as the House refused to seat Republican Mark Harris of North Carolina amid an investigation by state election officials of irregularities in absentee ballots from the November election.
Many GOP senators are up for re-election in 2020 in states where voters have mixed views of Trump’s performance in the White House.
Trump, whose own bid for 2020 already is underway, faces potential challenges from the ranks of Senate Democrats under Chuck Schumer.
The halls of the Capitol were bustling with arrivals, children in the arms of many new lawmakers. Visitor galleries included crooner Tony Bennett and rock legend Mickey Hart, both guests of Pelosi. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman, sat with Republican leaders.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., opened the House prayer asking at “a time fraught with tribalism at home and turbulence abroad” that lawmakers “become the architects of a kindlier nation.”
Overnight, Democratic Rep-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota tweeted a picture with her family at the airport. The House rules were being changed to allow Omar, who is Muslim, to wear a head scarf on the chamber floor. She wrote, “23 years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC. Today, we return to that same airport on the eve of my swearing in as the first Somali-American in Congress.”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Matthew Daly, Alan Fram, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Laurie Kellman and Zeke J. Miller contributed to this report.