Newly empowered House Dems pass funding plan without wall

WASHINGTON (AP) – On their first day in the majority, House Democrats have passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

The largely party-line votes on Thursday night came after Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room, pledging to keep up the fight for his signature campaign promise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump and Senate Republicans should “take yes for an answer” and approve the border bill, which was virtually identical to a plan the Senate adopted on a voice vote last month.

“We’re not doing a wall. Does anyone have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall?” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference on Thursday night.

Pelosi, who was elected speaker earlier on Thursday, also took a shot a Trump, calling his proposal “a wall between reality and his constituents”.

President Donald Trump speaks in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington. – AP

Trump strode into the White House briefing room on Thursday — the 13th day of the partial government shutdown —and declared that “without a wall you cannot have border security”. He then left without taking questions from reporters.

The appearance came hours after the new Congress convened, with Democrats taking majority control of the House and returning Pelosi to the speakership after eight years of GOP control. The Democratic legislation to re-open the government without funding the wall is going nowhere in the Senate, where Republicans want Trump’s endorsement before voting on a funding package.

Trump is demanding billions of dollars to build his wall along the US border with Mexico, which the Democrats have refused.

Asked if she would give Trump USD1 for a wall to reopen the government, Pelosi said: “One dollar? Yeah, one dollar. The fact is a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”

Congressional leaders from both parties met with Trump at the White House on Wednesday, but failed to make progress during their first sit-down in weeks. The White House has invited the leaders back yesterday for another round of talks that officials have suggested might be more successful now that Pelosi has been sworn in.

Reporters were told on Thursday that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be holding a hastily called late afternoon briefing. Instead, out walked Trump, flanked by members of the unions that represent border patrol and immigration enforcement agents. It was his first time delivering remarks at the briefing room podium.

“You can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want,” Trump said. “But essentially we need protection in our country. We’re going to make it good. The people of our country want it.”