Nebraska, Iowa lawmakers vote on dueling proposals to reopen government, both fall short

Nebraska, Iowa lawmakers vote on dueling proposals to reopen government, both fall short
World-Herald News Service

WASHINGTON — Many federal workers will receive paychecks with nothing but zeros for the second time Friday as the partial government shutdown continues to drag on.

Lawmakers voted this week on various proposals to fully reopen the government, but none are headed to the president’s desk yet.

The Senate voted Thursday on two competing bills; both failed to advance.

House Democrats note that they have voted almost a dozen times on various bills to reopen the government. Those bills do not include the border wall money that President Donald Trump is seeking.

Nebraska and Iowa Republicans have opposed those measures and have criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“If the president just opened up the government without some compromise from Pelosi, it would be totally just caving into the Democratic side, and I think that that’s not how these things should work,” said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska. “There should be both sides meeting somewhere in the middle.”

But Democrats say Trump is just demanding concessions to end a crisis he created. Giving him what he wants would only encourage him to create more crises in the future, they say.

Asked to respond to that argument, Bacon said that Democrats showed little interest in negotiating on the wall before the shutdown started and that Pelosi is looking for a total defeat of Trump.

“There has to be some give-and-take here,” Bacon said.

The Omaha-area congressman praised a proposal offered by Trump in the past week that would pair billions of dollars in border wall funding with temporary protections for those brought into the country illegally when they were very young.

Democrats have emphasized that those protections are temporary and noted that Trump’s plan comes with changes to asylum rules.

Bacon said those asylum rules could use some tightening.

He said both sides have engaged in pettiness over the past two weeks. Pelosi said the State of the Union address won’t happen until the government is reopened, while President Trump canceled Pelosi’s scheduled trip to Afghanistan.

“I think it’s embarrassing to have the president disinvited from the State of the Union,” Bacon said. “I think it’s embarrassing to have flights canceled.”

On the other side, Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she does not consider the president’s proposal to be a good-faith offer. She said Democrats have included money for border security, including physical barriers, in their proposals that the president has rejected.

Axne participated in a press conference Thursday with other House members and their local mayors, including Des Moines’ Frank Cownie, to talk about the effects of the shutdown on people back home.

In particular, Axne cited the hit to farmers already struggling with low crop prices and weather-related disasters.

“Now, as a result of a government shutdown, our farmers are unable to get the loans they desperately need to begin farming for this year,” Axne said.

The Senate voted Thursday on Trump’s proposal and a measure offered by Democrats to temporarily reopen the government. But both fell well short of the required 60-vote threshold to advance.

The four Republican senators from Iowa and Nebraska joined most of their GOP colleagues in supporting the Trump proposal and opposing the Democratic offering.

Sen. Ben Sasse has said little publicly about the shutdown. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst issued statements praising Trump’s proposal.

“It’s disappointing that the compromise proposal President Trump put forward did not pass the Senate today,” Fischer said. “This was a fair proposal that included bipartisan ideas to secure our border and end the partial shutdown. We need to build consensus now, and I hope my Democrat colleagues will come to the table to work toward a reasonable solution.”

Democrats have criticized what they see as shutdown hypocrisy, particularly on the part of Republican senators. They note that in December, the Senate approved by voice vote legislation to keep the government open without wall funding.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was asked by reporters Thursday about the effects of the shutdown, and he pointed to funding for food stamps running out at some point.

There’s a saying that society is only “nine meals away from a revolution,” Grassley said.

“When people can’t feed their kids, they take drastic actions,” Grassley said. “So I’m worried about that.”

Grassley was also asked when the government needs to reopen in order to use the new farm bill to help producers with spring planting.

“Yesterday,” Grassley responded.

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