Young considers crossing aisle as shutdown grinds on

Rep. Don Young in his Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Day 19 of the partial shutdown of the federal government will end with no resolution in sight. That leaves roughly 5,700 Alaskans unsure if they’ll get their next paycheck.

In Congress, several Republicans are talking about voting with the Democrats to at least pass some of the seven stalled spending bills, despite President Trump’s threat to veto anything that doesn’t include $5 billion for a border wall. Among Alaska’s delegation to Congress, two say they’re warm to the idea, and one isn’t saying.

At midday, Alaska Congressman Don Young could foresee the end of the shutdown. He predicted a solution within the week. He said it starts with a number of House Republicans voting with Democrats to pass individual spending bills.

“You’re going to see quite a few Republicans will be voting to reopen everything but the wall,” he predicted. “That will be an indication.”

The spending bills may never make it to the Senate floor, but Young said if enough Republicans vote for them, it will send a clear message to the president that it’s time to reach a compromise.

“Their biggest fear (at) the White House is that if by some chance they got out of the Senate, that the House would have enough votes to override the president’s veto,” he said. “And that could happen. So I think that compromise will come forth.”

Young said Trump is right to try to improve border security, but Alaska’s lone House member says he’s  among the Republicans likely to cross the aisle for those spending bills.

“I will probably vote for those. And as I say, a bunch of us are talking about this now,” Young said in an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “I don’t like shutdowns. I fought against it when Newt Gingrich did it against Bill Clinton.”

But a few hours later, when the first of those spending bills came to the House floor, only eight Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for a bill to reopen the Treasury and the IRS. Young’s vote? “No.”

Young’s spokeswoman issued a statement saying Young was frustrated with the shutdown, “but when the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi) decides to play to the cameras, act unilaterally and bring up bills that have no chance of being voted on by the Senate nor signed by the President, then what are we doing here?”

Young’s statement also suggests Pelosi and the top Democrat in the Senate aren’t negotiating in good faith with Republicans in Congress.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday she’d favor passing most of the spending bills so as not to hold other government departments “hostage” to the Homeland Security fight.

Sen. Dan Sullivan wouldn’t say whether he’d vote for the other bills. Sullivan called it a hypothetical question.

“That’s not going to transpire unless you have the White House saying they’re going to sign it,” Sullivan said. “So it IS a hypothetical question right now, because it wouldn’t be effective.”

The House plans to vote on a total of four spending bills this week.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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