As the government shutdown reaches the four-week mark, there’s a striking difference between how Congress’ chambers are trying to clean up the mess. The Democratic-led House has approved several measures that would re-open federal departments and agencies, and each of the bills is consistent with the related proposals that passed the Senate last month with bipartisan support.
The Republican-led Senate, however, has ignored the measures. In fact, the chamber hasn’t even tried to pass a bill to end all or part of the shutdown.
Pressed last week on why his chamber hasn’t yet considered any of the House bills to end the shutdown – measure that would likely pass the upper chamber – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he didn’t see the point in “wasting the Senate’s time on show votes.”
It’s a straightforward argument: Donald Trump will veto any effort to end the shutdown that lacks wall funding, so McConnell believes it’s “pointless” to schedule a vote on legislation that won’t become law.
But as it turns out, McConnell is selective in his application of this principle. Politico reported late yesterday:
Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to muster the 60 votes needed to approve a permanent ban on federal funding of abortion, a largely symbolic effort timed to coincide with the country’s largest annual anti-abortion demonstration in Washington this week.
The Senate vote was the first on an anti-abortion measure since Republicans narrowly expanded their majority in the chamber in the 2018 midterms, and it marked a sharp contrast with House Democrats’ plans to loosen restrictions on taxpayer support for the procedure.
McConnell knew going into the vote that the measure didn’t have the support necessary to clear the 60-vote threshold – in fact, it faced bipartisan opposition – which dovetailed with the obvious realization that the bill stood no chance whatsoever in the Democratic-led House.
But opponents of abortion rights are getting ready for their annual event in D.C., and the Senate Republican leadership thought it’d be a nice little gift to the activists to bring the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” to the floor for consideration.
What was that McConnell was saying about how “pointless” it is to “waste the Senate’s time on show votes”?
As things stand, the Senate has now considered more anti-abortion legislation in the new Congress than bills to end the shutdown. That seems … less than ideal.