Democrats vow to pass US shutdown bills

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US Democrats have vowed to pass bills that would end a government shutdown, when they take control of the House when Congress reconvenes on Thursday.

But the bills will not include funding for President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall, the cause of the shutdown.

The impasse will therefore continue, as Republicans still control the Senate and say they will not pass the funding bills without Mr Trump’s approval.

The partial shutdown has now lasted 13 days, affecting some 800,000 workers.

Shutdowns occur when Congress fails to approve a budget for government operations, or the president refuses to sign it, by a certain deadline.

Mr Trump’s Republicans had passed a budget bill including $5bn funding for the wall in December, when they still had a majority in the House but they could not get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate.

The House majority now passes to the Democrats following the November mid-term elections.

Nancy Pelosi, who is the new House majority leader, said the Democrats would quickly pass budget legislation providing sufficient funds to end the shutdown. But she was quite clear what it would not include.

She told NBC: “Nothing for the wall. We can go through the back and forth. No. How many more times can we say no?”

The Democrats will try again to pass the blame for the shutdown on to the president, pointing out that the bills they will pass would be similar to legislation that had won bipartisan support in the Senate in December before Mr Trump signaled he would not back it.

“We’re asking the president to open up government,” Ms Pelosi said “We have given the Republicans a chance to take yes for an answer.”

One Democrat bill would temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security until 8 February, while another measure would fund other departments closed by the partial shutdown until 30 September.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said Republicans there will not back measures that Mr Trump does not support.

He called the Democrats’ move a “total nonstarter” and a “political sideshow”.

What does the partial shutdown mean?

  • About 25% of the US federal government has no funding
  • Nine departments have been affected, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury
  • Around 800,000 federal workers are now furloughed – that is, temporarily laid off due to a lack of funding – or working without pay
  • The National Park Service has suspended all non-emergency services
  • Many museums are closed
  • Science labs face repercussions as many federally employed scientists have stopped working
  • Native American tribes who receive substantial federal funding are struggling