House Approves Spending Bill With 1.9 Percent Civilian Pay Raise in Latest Attempt to Reopen Government

Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.

Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Alex Brandon/AP

Measure is the first of four the House plans to take up; President Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leadership Wednesday after Democrats declined to support his $5.7 billion border wall funding demand.

The House on Wednesday voted 240-188 to approve the first of four appropriations bills in Democrats’ latest effort to end a partial government shutdown, now in its 19th day.

But although some Senate Republicans appeared to waver on keeping portions of the government closed over President Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Wednesday provided little in the way of progress toward a solution.

The bill (H.R. 264) approved by the House provides funding for federal services and general government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department, at levels approved by the Senate last year. The bill includes a 1.9 percent pay increase for civilian federal employees, overriding Trump’s pay 2019 freeze, and reinstates a pay freeze that has been in place since 2013 for the vice president, Cabinet-level officials and nearly 1,000 other political appointees.

The Office of Personnel Management last week issued guidance delaying implementation of a roughly 10 percent raise for political officials, citing the potential for Congress to revive the freeze in its funding legislation.

The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday announced that the White House opposes the House-passed bill, along with three other appropriations bills the chamber plans to consider, saying the administration would only support a single bill to reopen the government and that includes border wall funding.

“For [fiscal] 2019, the administration has repeatedly and clearly communicated the requirements for border security, most recently in a letter from the Office of Management and Budget to the House and Senate appropriations committees on January 6,” OMB wrote. “Moving these four bills without a broader agreement to address the border crisis is unacceptable . . . If [these bills] are presented to the president, his advisers would recommend that he veto the bills.”

In the Senate, some Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have become publicly critical of the president’s strategy. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered no indication he will bring up any of the House’s funding bills for a vote.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the White House and Congress took another step back Wednesday, as Trump walked out of a meeting with lawmakers. In a tweet, Trump said it was a “total waste of time.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump demanded funding for the wall, not border security. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the president slammed his fists on the table—something Republicans dispute.

“He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ ” Schumer said after the meeting. “She said ‘no,’ and he just got up, and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss,’ and he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum, because he couldn’t get his way and he just walked out of the meeting.”

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