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Pelosi cranks up shutdown pressure on Trump, GOP

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop More hands needed on the nuclear football Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are ramping up pressure on President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE and Republicans to open the government amid a prolonged impasse over border wall funding that shows no signs of abating.

Sensing a winning hand, Democrats this week will repackage a handful of uncontroversial bills funding a number of shuttered agencies — excluding Homeland Security, which covers the proposed wall — and send them off to the Senate one by one, forcing GOP leaders to explain their promised inaction on measures they supported just weeks ago.

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“I have said over and over again, we need to reopen the government and then have a serious discussion about border security,” Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday in an interview with New York Public Radio. 

“Isolate the [border wall] issue, take a month to discuss it, but don’t hold up all the essential services — like the Agriculture Department, Interior, parks, housing, transportation — all the other parts of the government,” she said.

“The president is really causing great hardship to the average person in this country,” she added.

The Democrats plan to revisit four spending bills the House passed last week, beginning Wednesday with a vote on a financial services proposal that would provide funding for the Treasury Department and IRS amid fears that taxpayer refunds will be delayed by the shutdown.

The administration sought to alleviate those concerns on Monday, saying the IRS will distribute refunds even during the shutdown.

Later in the week, Democrats expect to pass three additional funding bills, targeting the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration; the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service; and the Transportation and public housing departments.

The precise order and timing of the last three votes remain in flux. But the strategy is clear: Democrats want to highlight the tangible effects of the partial shutdown — which has affected roughly 800,000 federal employees and threatened services to millions of other Americans — as Trump and Republicans clamor for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.

“We’re working this week on the ones that have a big impact on families,” said a Democratic aide.

The vote strategy comes just days after newly empowered House Democrats passed legislation that would fund those same agencies through September in a single omnibus bill. Senate Republicans refused to consider the measure, citing Trump’s opposition.

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Separately, Democrats passed a short-term extension of funding for the Homeland Security Department, without funding for a border wall, through Feb. 8 — a proposal Democrats have no immediate plans to repackage since it’s already awaiting action by the Senate as a stand-alone bill, according to the aide.

House Democrats are getting plenty of help from their Senate colleagues, who are vowing to oppose any bill unrelated to government funding before the shutdown is ended.

According to some of the negotiators, that could be awhile.

“From my perspective, what happened yesterday … there was no progress made,” Lowey said, referring to negotiations Sunday between Democratic appropriations staffers and top administration officials, including Vice President Pence.

Democrats are hardly alone in escalating their pressure tactics this week. Eighteen days into the partial shutdown, the rhetoric from both sides is heating up, with neither party’s leaders showing a willingness to budge on the question of wall funding.

Trump plans to deliver a rare prime-time address on Tuesday night — his first from the Oval Office — when he will speak of the “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” according to a tweet he sent Monday. 

That will be followed by a Thursday trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he’s expected to further make his case for a wall.

The pair of high-profile events suggest the once-sleepy shutdown fight is about to enter a new phase: an all-out messaging war.

Trump appears ready to begin using his bully pulpit, something he did not do during the holiday break, when he spent most of that time hunkered down in the White House and largely out of view of TV cameras.

If Trump and Republicans are unmoved by the passage of individual spending bills this week, Democrats said they could just continue voting over and over on government funding measures.

“I absolutely think the president should be and will be under pressure to open these agencies,” said Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiDemocrat rips Sackler family, Purdue doctors during House questioning Enforcing the Presidential Records Act is essential for preserving our democracy's transparency, history Clinton offers congratulations over Elliot Page announcement MORE (D-Ill.), whose district includes part of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where hundreds of Transportation Security Administration employees are working without a guarantee they’ll be paid.

“If he thinks he will somehow be immune to the public’s demands for their IRS refunds or [United States Department of Agriculture] services or their flood insurance or [housing program] applications being processed, he is in for a big surprise,” Krishnamoorthi added.

Senate Democrats have tried to amplify their message in their home states by meeting with local reporters to highlight the pain the shutdown is inflicting on federal workers and everyday Americans.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? Schumer calls for DOJ watchdog to probe alleged Trump effort to oust acting AG Student loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters that more than 50,000 federal workers in the New York City region were not getting a paycheck, while the troubled MTA public-transit system could lose $150 million in federal funding and cut services this month.

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Romney calls for Senate to pass sanctions on Putin over Navalny poisoning 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D-Md.), meanwhile, held a roundtable Monday with some of the 26,000 federal workers in his state who are not getting paid during the partial closure.

“Many of our employees are devastated by the shutdown,” said Anel Flores, a systems engineer and a union president at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Prince George’s County just outside of D.C. “And certainly, the majority are really facing hardships. They have bills to pay. They have families, mortgages, rents are coming due. They may not be able to make some of those payments.”

If recent spending fights are any guide, Trump and Republicans are risking a political backlash by insisting that wall funding be a part of the package.

In October 2013, Republicans, led by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz, Seth Rogen trade insults as Twitter spat flares Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot MORE (Texas), forced a similar shutdown over their demand to repeal ObamaCare. Sixteen days later, GOP leaders relented to reopen the government without the repeal provision — a  shutdown that cost the economy $24 billion, according to an estimate by Standard and Poor’s. Subsequent polls revealed that voters overwhelmingly blamed the GOP for the episode.

Last January, it was the Democrats who were making the demands, insisting that a spending package include language providing protections for the so-called Dreamers, immigrants who came to the country illegally as children. The Democrats lost the policy fight and took a public hit for the three-day shutdown that accompanied the impasse.

Acknowledging those risks, a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers have emerged to urge party leaders to abandon the wall fight and reopen the government.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open,” Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Colo.) told The Hill last week.

In an effort to quell any potential insurrections, Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down MORE are expected to meet with House Republicans in the Capitol on Tuesday, and Senate Republicans on Wednesday, to encourage the party’s rank and file to stick by Trump’s hard-line position on the border wall.

“What we hear from Republican members — and, quite frankly, quietly from many Democrat members — is that when they see the scope of this crisis, when they see the facts presented to them, they understand why the president is so adamant about doing something meaningful to advance border security,” Pence said Monday.