House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on

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The House approved legislation that would fund and re-open the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and to end the partial shutdown.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

It’s the fourth measure approved by the Democratic House this week. Democrats are voting on a series of bills to open up the parts of the government closed since Dec. 22, which has left about 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay.

Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring any of the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal between Trump and Democrats on the president’s demand for border wall funding.

Trump is edging closer to declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build a wall, a step that could start a court fight with Democrats.

Negotiations between the two sides have not been fruitful. Trump stormed out of a Wednesday meeting at the White House and called it a “total waste of time.”

The shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history on Saturday.

In their comments on the floor ahead of the vote, both sides dug in hard.

“Trump articulated at the White House that he would not open government until we agreed with doing what he wanted to do. That is not democracy, that’s despotism,” said House Majority Leader (D-Md.).

He also noted that the bills being brought to the Senate floor had passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support.

Republican leaders – who have placed a full court press on their conference to remain unified in standing with the president – argue Democrats have failed to take negotiations seriously.

“The far left wing of Pelosi’s conference has pulled her away from being able to reach any kind of agreement and that’s a shame because we are seeing more and more Democrats now on their side say that they really need to try to solve this problem,” House Minority Whip (R-La.) told reporters Thursday, referring to Speaker (D-Calif.). “So hopefully that continues to bill to push Pelosi in a position where she actually has to negotiate in good faith and put a real offer on the table.”

The House passed two spending bills – one to provide funding for the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and other agencies; and another to fund the Department of Agriculture and related agencies and allocate funds to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – with the support of 12 GOP lawmakers on Thursday. On Wednesday, the lower chamber approved a bill to reopen the Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service and Small Business Administration, among other federal agencies with the help of eight Republicans.