WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Tuesday that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on a bill that would prevent the federal government from shutting down again.
President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats decided on a short-term agreement on Friday that temporarily opened the government until Feb. 15, pending negotiations over additional border security measures. The move allowed federal workers to go back to work and be compensated after the longest government shutdown in history idled them and deprived them of pay for 35 days.
Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, told reporters at his weekly briefing that allowing the government to shutdown again after the three-week deadline is “off the table,” adding later that making workers work for no pay is “un-American.”
Despite a clear willingness to avoid another shutdown, Hoyer was vague about what House Democrats would agree to in talks with Republicans over border security.
“My advice to Congress is not to negotiate their deal in the context of public media,” the Maryland congressman said.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said in Senate remarks Tuesday that it was time to test Democrats’ “seriousness about legislating.”
“Are they here in Congress because they actually want to find solutions to the challenges facing our country?” the senator asked. “Or are they here to score political points and oppose everything that the president says and does? The answer should become pretty clear over the next few weeks.”
Hoyer announced that a bill will be unveiled Wednesday to give a 2.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment for federal employees to help compensate for the shutdown. Roughly 800,000 government workers were furloughed or forced to work without pay for the duration of the historic shutdown.
“That’s the least we can do to say to them: ‘Obviously this shutdown has shown how very important your services are to the American people,’” Hoyer said.
Hoyer responded to claims by Trump that the president had spoken to congressional Democrats who were in support of the wall, with Hoyer saying, “there are different points of view of Democrats that would surprise you, just as there are different points of view that are held by Republicans.”
“I frankly think we’ve shown over a long period of time that the Democratic Party has significantly greater unity within its ranks,” Hoyer said. “It does not mean we don’t have differences of opinion” over the border wall, “unlike Republicans, who have continually displayed significant and ongoing disunity within their caucus.”
Amid a particularly volatile stock market, Hoyer emphasized that preventing another shutdown remains the House Democrats’ top priority.
“My message is not to Wall Street, my message is to the president of the United States, in particular, to stop creating crisis on a daily basis and uncertainty on a daily basis, which is destabilizing the economy and destabilizing the trust that people have around the world in the stability of the United States,” Hoyer added.
Trump stated on Friday that if there is insufficient funding for a border wall by Feb. 15, another shutdown could be in order.