U.S. Rep. Ron Kind says Democrats in the House will work with “Republican numbers” this week to pass individual appropriations bills to fund federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security, among others.
“We’re going to use what they agreed to themselves, and we’re going to see if (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell is willing to take that up,” Kind said as he outlined his priorities heading into the 116th Congress.
“First priority is getting the federal government fully functioning again,” Kind said during a press conference at La Crosse Regional Airport. “The longer we let this shutdown continue, the more it jeopardizes our national security and the economic growth that we need right now in this country.”
The shutdown has affected 800,000 federal workers across the country, many of whom are required to show up to work during this time without pay.
“That’s fundamentally unfair to them and their families. They have mortgage payments. They have bills to pay,” Kind said. He hopes the shutdown will be fully resolved within a week but remains skeptical because of President Donald Trump.
“We don’t know what his bottom line is because it’s shifting from minute to minute. One minute he sends the vice president up to talk to us and puts an offer on the table, and no sooner does the vice president return to the White House, the president rejects the entire negotiation,” Kind said. “It makes it almost impossible to negotiate with him.”
The government shutdown, going on three weeks, began in late December after an on-camera dispute in the Oval Office between Trump and two Democrats, then-House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, regarding the president’s request for $5 billion in funding for the construction of a wall on the southwestern U.S. border.
Trump said he would own the responsibility if a shutdown were to take place but later blamed Democrats for the impasse.
Kind wants to push comprehensive immigration reform by resurrecting a Senate bill that passed with a large bipartisan majority during the Obama administration but stalled in the House. Congress has the opportunity to go back to that bill, make some tweaks and introduce it again on the floor, he said.
Once the government shutdown ends, Kind plans to focus on five priorities:
- lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs;
- resolving the growing crisis that faces Wisconsin’s family farmers and ending the trade war;
- finding a sustainable revenue source to fund and rebuild the state’s aging infrastructure — a task he hopes the state’s new administration will tackle as well;
- reauthorizing the Higher Education Act which includes renewing need-based financial aid programs;
- and recommitting to a strong sense of fiscal responsibility which, he said, does not include providing funding for a concrete wall on the country’s southwestern border.
“I’m very worried about where we’re going with our fiscal policy. We’re going to be looking at annual trillion dollar budget deficits starting this year already — and this is at a time of economic growth and virtual full employment,” he said.
Thursday marked the start of a divided Congress, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives and Republicans in control of the Senate as the 116th Congress convened for the first time after the 2018 midterm elections.