On Sunday afternoon, shortly after being sworn-in, members of the House of Representatives elected Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker by just 2 votes. As we entered the new year, and up until the vote today, it was still unclear whether or not there would be enough votes to re-elect Pelosi to the speakership. Rumors circulating the capital had a group of recently elected Progressive Congress members, withholding their vote for Nancy Pelosi unless she agreed to an up-and-down floor vote on Medicare for All. Congress members Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) of New York and Cori Bush (D-MO) of Missouri in a recent CNN interview refused to say how they would vote, sparking more intrigue among pundits as to what they would do.
Going into today, Congresswoman Pelosi needed to receive a simple majority of votes cast and accomplished this, but by just 2 votes. There were 428 voting members out of the 435 in the chamber, and Nancy Pelosi received 216-just one more than the required 215. To much surprise, it was not just the vote count that was of interest, but who received votes as well. Congress members Connor Lamb (D-PA) of Pennsylvania, Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) of Virginia, Jared Golden (D-ME) of Maine, Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) of Michigan, and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) of New Jersey all chose not to vote for Congresswoman Pelosi. Congressman Lamb opted for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), while Congressman Golden chose progressive Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) of Illinois. This is of note, as they are all considered “Moderate Democrats”, representing swing districts. To vote against their party in choosing a leader was of great risk and it will be interesting to see how that decision affects them in the next election cycle.
The federal government has now been partially shut down for over a month. Federal employees are working part-time jobs at supermarkets and for ride-sharing apps. GoFundMe, the crowdfunding website, now features hundreds of fundraising pages to help support furloughed government workers.
A government shutdown is when Congress and the president fail to pass and sign legislation funding the federal government and its agencies. The current shutdown is the longest to date, totaling 32 days as of January 22. When the government shuts down, federal workers in the applicable departments are furloughed and do not receive pay. National parks and historic sites are closed or may degrade due to a lack of Park Service employees to properly maintain the site. Businesses that rely on federal workers and agencies also lose money.
The reason for this government shutdown is President Donald Trump’s demand that $5.7 billion be allocated toward a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Democrats in Congress have stood their ground and have refused to give in to the President’s demands. On January 19, President Trump presented a compromise of sorts: in exchange for funding the border wall, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) would be extended by three years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced plans to bring this proposal up in the Senate. Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have insisted that the federal government be reopened before any negotiations regarding the border wall, DACA, and immigration reform more generally take place. Senator Schumer referred to the proposal as a “hostage-taking” tactic.
Outside of the drama on the Hill, the government shutdown is impacting citizens across the country. Over 2,000 Granite Staters have been directly impacted by the government shutdown and left without paychecks. Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH-1) has refused to receive pay until the entire federal government is reopened. In an interview with WMUR, Congressman Pappas said, “As someone who has run a small business, I could not imagine receiving a paycheck while any of my employees are working without pay. For this reason, I write today to request that my pay be withheld until the current shutdown has ended and the entire federal government is reopened.”
Across the state, local businesses, banks, and food pantries are opening their doors to help furloughed federal workers make ends meet. Southern New Hampshire University has established a $1 million emergency fund for students impacted by the government shutdown. The Friendly Church in Portsmouth is offering free meals for furloughed workers, with proof of employment. Click here for a full list of resources available across New Hampshire.