A bill that would strengthen oversight of the president and heighten transparency provisions passed the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, during a contentious debate that appeared to emerge as the focus of party leadership’s future.
No government shutdown: Congress passes bill to end government shutdown by 27 October Read more
The Democrats’ priority bill passed 251-166 after months of negotiations to ease some of the most conservative elements in the party’s proposed revisions to the bill became counterproductive in the broader negotiations.
Following the passage of the bill, Democratic and Republican leaders in the House announced that they would bring forward a “deficit-neutral” bill by the end of the year which would provide relief from an impasse over Trump’s border wall with Mexico.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi and majority leader Steny Hoyer said after the vote that they would send a measure to Trump’s desk to end the government shutdown, now the second longest in history, within 10 days.
Despite the shift in policy priorities, the bill continued to make waves in the chamber and could represent a powerful political weapon for the House Democrats as they seek to oust Republicans in the midterm elections in November.
The bill was produced as compromise in a party whose leaders have clashed over whether to rush ahead with measures that could jeopardize the overall framework of an agreement reached last month by leaders of both parties.
After a vote in the House of Representatives, the bipartisan bill reached a final form that increased election access while clamping down on Trump’s powers, aiming to combat what many Democrats have viewed as the president’s willingness to abuse his powers.
The group of former attorneys general met on Tuesday to discuss which provisions should be picked out, in keeping with congressional Democrats’ insistence that this bill was their version of legislation they successfully passed in 2015. But the process didn’t appear to be party-led. The lawmakers who attended the meeting included former Obama cabinet members Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch and ex-Trump attorney general Eric Holder.
On Friday, the House passed a bipartisan version of the bill unanimously and sent it to the Senate. To avoid a repeat of the shutdown, both houses would have to approve the final version.
Some House Republicans, including the House leadership, opposed the bill in December, when it passed 233-185 in the chamber. But most Republicans opposed the bill as it emerged from committee after learning that several provisions would appear to reduce President Donald Trump’s freedom to carry out his agenda and shield the president from any legal penalties.
Late on Tuesday, Republicans ignored those warnings and largely supported the legislation in a 231-193 vote.
Trump’s administration has backed the bill, in part because it supports a repeal of the Johnson amendment, a 1954 law that blocks nonprofits that receive taxpayer money from lobbying for positions the administration may oppose. The bill does not raise any questions about the president’s ability to make policy.
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said the bill was critical to ensuring oversight of the president and that Republican opponents failed to win the necessary votes to change it.
Republicans control both chambers of Congress and have been without a 60-vote threshold to change legislation, potentially obstructing Obama-era gun control measures and other legislation.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the procedural changes, saying they could erode the powers of the House oversight committee, whose special investigations committee is charged with scrutinizing the White House.
“What was put forward is absolutely outrageous,” Republican congressman Trey Gowdy said.