‘Deal Us In’ to Avoid Federal Shutdown, on a Few Conditions: Democrats

Republicans command all the levers of the federal government, holding both chambers of Congress and the White House. But the key to avoiding a government shutdown in April may rest in Democrats.

As the GOP struggles to finalize a massive omnibus to ensure government funding through next fall, Democrats are reminding House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that his leadership team has never been able to get such a package through the House without the support of the minority. 

With the conservative House Freedom Caucus likely to again oppose an omnibus reflecting the two-year bipartisan budget deal, Democratic votes will be needed to get the 11-bill package across the finish line by the April 28 deadline, they said.

Paul and Nancy

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said to earn those votes, however, Republican leaders have to reject conservatives’ calls to insert “poison pill” riders in the final package and President Donald Trump’s demands for money to build a new wall along the U.S-Mexico border. Democrats, she said, expect to be part of the negotiation over the final details of the omnibus.

“[I]t’s always been a negotiation, and they’ve never been able to pass one without Democratic votes,” Pelosi told reporters.

A look back at votes during the past five years shows Republicans did in fact need significant Democratic support to get the critical 218 votes for year-end omnibus spending packages. For fiscal year 2016, the House passed a package (H.R. 2029) funding the government with 150 Republican and 166 Democratic votes.

Some 95 Republicans, many of them Freedom Caucus members, voted against that measure.

Similar omnibus outcomes reflecting the key role played by Democrats were seen in the preceding years: 

  • FY 2015: 162 Republicans, 57 Democrats
  • FY 2014: 166 Republicans, 193 Democrats
  • FY 2013: 203 Republicans, 115 Democrats
  • FY 2012: 147 Republicans, 149 Democrats

“[W]e’re not going to be handed something and say, ‘How many votes can you give us for this?’” Pelosi said. “We’ll say, ‘Let’s see how we put this bill together, if we’re going to share the writing, as we’re going to share in the voting.’”