U.S. representatives took office Thursday amid a politically combative government shutdown over the president's demands for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Democrats reinstalled Nancy Pelosi, of California, as House speaker, then planned to introduce a spending package with short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security. That would allow federal employees to receive a paycheck during a 30-day negotiation window, but President Donald Trump has said he won't sign the bill, making it a nonstarter in the Senate.
The new congress convened with two freshmen from eastern Kansas — Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from the 3rd District who backed Pelosi, and Rep. Steve Watkins, the Republican who now holds the 2nd District seat. Two other Republicans in the Kansas delegation, Rep. Ron Estes and Rep. Roger Marshall, returned to action.
Watkins said he was ready to get to work on behalf of his constituents, who he had in mind when he opposed placing Pelosi in the leadership position she previously held from 2007 to 2011.
"As I crisscrossed Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District over the past year, there was a reoccurring theme among both Republicans and Democrats," Watkins said. "They did not want to see Nancy Pelosi serving as speaker of the House again."
In an appearance Thursday morning on MSNBC, Davids said she has heard from constituents caught in the political crossfire who are wondering when they will get their next paycheck and how long the shutdown will last.
Part of the duty for lawmakers, she said, is to make sure they are doing everything they can to protect the American people.
"I can tell you that one of the first things we're going to be voting on today is going to be a funding package that will get the government back up and running so we can perform those services that the American people need," Davids said.
Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room and congratulated Pelosi on becoming House speaker, but insisted a wall is necessary. He wants more than $5 billion to build the border wall.
"Without a wall, you cannot have border security," Trump said. "It won't work."
Democrats hoped to pass two budget bills Thursday evening. One would float security for a month while the other would fund the rest of government for the year.