President Donald Trump’s shutdown is days from breaking the record for the longest in U.S. history, and its harmful impacts are already being felt by millions of Americans. One of the consequences of the partial shutdown is that the Food and Drug Administration has stopped doing most of its food safety inspections — just weeks after a major E. coli outbreak hit the nation’s romaine lettuce supply.
To address this crisis, the House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would reopen the small portions of the government that are responsible for agriculture, food safety, and rural development. The legislation, H.R. 265, was approved by a 243 to 183 vote. But just 10 Republicans joined the Democratic majority in support of the bill, while the remaining 183 Republicans voted against it.
The GOP lawmakers who voted with Democrats in favor of H.R. 265 included Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Will Hurd (R-TX), John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Greg Walden (R-OR).
H.R. 265 would provide funding for the rest of the year for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is almost identical to a what was included in a bipartisan spending bill that passed the senate 92 to 6 last August but never became law.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) led the opposition to the $23 billion bill on the floor, objecting to accepting the Senate’s version — noting that it did not reflect all of last year’s House Republican then-majority’s priorities, left out provisions relating to importing chicken from China, did not fully fund a rural broadband program, and did not address Trump’s demand for billions of dollars in funding for a border wall.
Foreign food inspection continues, but the FDA’s domestic food inspection has effectively ceased due to the Trump shutdown. Roughly 7,000 of the agency’s 17,000 employees are currently furloughed and others are working without pay.
“It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances. There are important things we are not doing,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NBC News on Wednesday.
Minutes earlier, 12 Republicans had joined with all 232 Democrats present to pass H.R. 267, a bill to reopen the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and related agencies. The dozen House defections were the most yet against Trump and the GOP leadership, though the president has repeatedly claimed that his party is unified around his shutdown strategy.
There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise. The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give “Trump” another one of many wins!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2019
Though Congress could override any presidential veto with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, for the moment, both bills appear unlikely to go anywhere. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked a unanimous consent request on Thursday to pass a different House-approved bill to reopen part of the federal government, dismissing it as “an absolutely pointless show vote.”