House Republicans resort to wacky excuses to reject ending Trump’s shutdown

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Republicans are offering a series of strange justifications for refusing to join their Democratic colleagues in supporting legislation that would end President Trump’s government shutdown, which is about to set a record as the longest ever.

Democrats passed a series of bills this week to reopen parts of the federal government that are currently closed due to the partial shutdown, with only a few Republican votes joining in support of the legislation.

While Trump has vowed to veto these bills unless Congress gives him billions of taxpayer dollars for a border wall he promised would be funded entirely by Mexico, lawmakers could override a presidential veto if two-thirds of the House and Senate backed the bills.

Instead, House Republicans have offered a litany of excuses for their opposition to bills, which were crafted to match bipartisan Senate spending bills endorsed by the body last year. While some played on the notion that the House should never give the Senate what it wants, many noted that their pet pork projects were not adequately funded — and thus, they preferred to let government agencies including Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Interior continue to be shuttered with no funding whatsoever.

The gripes shared during the House debate included:

Dead House members wouldn’t like the process.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) argued that even though the bills received overwhelming support from senators from both parties last year, they should be rejected because the House was not involved. “The other side wants to claim that these bills are bipartisan, but they are clearly not bicameral, and they have no input from the 435 House Members,” he said. “Some of the great House appropriators of our time on both sides of the aisle would probably be rolling over in their graves right now if they knew of such a move to take up Senate spending bills without any House input.”

The House didn’t get to insert any pork-barrel spending. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) warned that because it is “a Senate product,” the legislation ignores House member’s spending wishes. “Not one House Member has had one priority put in this bill because there are no amendments allowed in this process,” he said.

There’s not enough uniformity for Idaho and Oregon beet haulers.

Diaz-Balart noted that the non-enacted appropriations bill passed only by the then-House Republican majority last year had included a provision relating to sugar and beet transportation between Idaho and Oregon. It “simply made truck length requirements uniform between those two states—common sense,” he explained, and “will help truckers and farmers in those states. But, you see, the Democratic proposal before you does not include even that commonsense provision, commonsense bipartisan provision.”

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) also objected on these grounds. “It is very limited—only sugar beets on noninterstate highways—and everybody agrees with it,” added.

Kids might eat Chinese chicken.

Though the Food and Drug Administration is currently unable to do food safety inspections for domestic food products, Aderholt warned that passage of the bill might not stop one very specific type of meal. “[T]he Democratic bill fails to include two provisions that place limits on chicken imported from China. The Republican bill includes an outright ban on Chinese chicken in school meals, while the Democratic bill fails to include this protection for our children.”

The (currently unpaid) air traffic controllers won’t modernize fast enough.

Air traffic controllers — deemed essential and thus working without pay for the duration of the shutdown — received $0 paychecks on Friday. But Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) opposed a bill to reopen the agency, in part, because it included slightly less money than last year’s House bill for air traffic control updates. “When it comes to the Federal Aviation Administration,” she said, “this bill provides $250 million less to modernize our air traffic control system.”

There’s too much algae blooming in the Great Lakes. 

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) complained that the bills did not do enough to address “harmful algal blooms” in the Great Lakes. “There is bipartisan, bicameral report language,” he objected, “that would not go into effect if the bill before us becomes law. It reduces the growth of harmful algal bloom that has been a concern nationwide. In 2014, algal bloom affected people in Toledo, Ohio.”

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), the sponsor of the spending bill to reopen the EPA and Department of Interior, noted the that bill contained an identical amount of Great Lakes funding to the House GOP’s version a year ago.

The bills do not totally meet the needs of a Calexico, California land port.

Though his Georgia congressional district is about 2,000 miles away, Rep. Tom Graves (R) objected to the fact that the bills did not include as much money as last year’s House GOP version for a land port in California. “We passed it back in July, and it contained nearly $276 million for the Calexico, California, land port of entry, fully funding what was necessary there at that land port of entry. Yet the Senate bill is $100 million short,” he said.

No money for national parks is better than less money for national parks.

Aderholt opposed the bill to fund the Department of the Interior and other agencies on the grounds that he doesn’t think the bill provided enough money for the National Park Service — though they currently are lacking any of the needed funds for maintenance, cleanup, or safety. “[It] reduces funding for operation and maintenance of the national park system,” he said.

Perhaps revealing his real concern, he added that it “does not include any of the Endangered Species Act reforms that are absolutely necessary for the law to work in a practical way.” The 2018 bill included fossil-fuel-industry backed changes that would have gutted parts of the Endangered Species Act.

As Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) noted in the floor debate, during the shutdown, the country’s national parks have reportedly experienced habitat destruction, visitor injuries, and multiple visitor deaths.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work