WASHINGTON — Virginia Democratic U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton is just a few weeks into her new job, but she was already at the center of a heated partisan fight Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The freshman lawmaker introduced a resolution this week with a simple summary: “Government shutdowns are detrimental to the nation and should not occur.”
In the highly charged atmosphere on Capitol Hill following the 35-day shutdown that ended Friday, the document met with stiff opposition from House Republicans, who accused Wexton and Democratic leadership of wasting time on partisan spats. An early version of the resolution directly blamed President Donald Trump for causing the shutdown.
Wexton and the Democrats lost the battle. The resolution failed on Wednesday when it fell short of winning the support of two-thirds of the House. Most Republicans were united against the resolution.
The vote followed a GOP campaign against Wexton’s resolution Wednesday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called it a “glorified press release” on the House floor and accused Democrats of “using this chamber to settle political scores.”
In addition to declaring government shutdowns undesirable, the version of Wexton’s resolution that failed in the House listed negative impacts of shutdowns, including federal workers going without pay, a hit to the U.S. economy, delayed food safety inspections and other downsides.
It also quoted three Republican senators — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — decrying government shutdowns. No Democratic senators were quoted.
Republicans had also assailed an earlier version of Wexton’s resolution, which included language blaming Trump. The shutdown, the draft said, “resulted from the president of the United States attempting to use a lapse in appropriations in order to achieve a legislative end that he had not achieved in the regular order of the appropriations process.”
The earlier version also included quotes from McCarthy and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson calling shutdowns “stupid.”
The resolution considered on the House floor Wednesday had removed the language blaming Trump for the shutdown and the quotes from the House Republicans.
After the measure sparked an uproar, Wexton wrote on Twitter, “If you’ve been watching the House floor, you saw the Freedom Caucus oppose my resolution declaring shutdowns are bad for federal employees and the economy. I didn’t realize this would be so controversial.”
House Democrats were quick to use the vote to criticize their Republican colleagues.
“Today, 163 House Republicans voted against a resolution that says shutting down the government is stupid and bad policy,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoye, D-Md., said in a statement issued after the vote.
“By refusing to say that they will take shutdowns off the table as an option in their negotiating toolbox, Republicans are sending a dangerous threat to the American people. How shameful,” he said.
Among the 21 Republicans who broke ranks with their party to back Wexton’s resolution were Virginia Reps. Rob Wittman and freshman Denver Riggleman.