For the Democrats, Jan. 3 was a huge kettle of eggnog, flavored with the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
For the House Republicans it was Groundhog Day. The Democrats and GOP have played out this scenario many times before. On Thursday, the political parties opened the gift-wrapped 116th Congress.
The lead roles were played by two Californians. Kevin McCarthy, the latest minority leader, handed over the House gavel to Nancy Pelosi, the newly ornamented speaker.
McCarthy, of Bakersfield, has a broad district that encompasses much of East Kern County, plus a line in the sand that includes portions of Los Angeles County and a small peninsula drawn into Lancaster.
Pelosi is from San Francisco. She won the speakership with 220 votes to McCarthy’s 192.
But the occasion was darkened by the fact that the partial government shutdown, kicked off before Christmas, threatened the incomes of 800,000 government workers.
Many of the nation’s grand national parks and extraordinary museums are off-limits to tourists.
Pelosi, the only woman ever to serve as speaker, accepted the reins with an ideologically diverse Democratic caucus that won the majority, in part, by opposing President Donald Trump’s policies.
Democratic lawmakers, who will take over the House’s oversight machinery, have said they would use their authority to review the Republican president’s tax returns and probe his business dealings.
Trump originally said he would take the blame for the government shutdown but a few days later, when it happened, he blamed the Democrats.
Pelosi has resisted calls from some members of her caucus to open impeachment proceedings against Trump, saying the House would wait for the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Trump and Russia have denied any wrongdoing.
On the legislative front, House Democrats plan to focus on measures to lower prescription drug prices, ramp up spending on the nation’s infrastructure and overhaul ethics and campaign-finance rules in Washington.
As of Thursday night, there were few signs of a resolution to the standoff, as Democrats resist Trump’s demand for $5 billion to build a wall (now sometimes being referred to as a barrier) along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump, whose 2016 campaign included a trillion dollar infrastructure package, has said he was willing to work with Democrats on infrastructure legislation. The president congratulated Pelosi in a surprise news briefing at the White House, Thursday afternoon.
House Democrats now include 89 women, out of 235 members. The House GOP now includes 13 women out of 199 members.
Democrats, meanwhile, talked up the legislation they were expected to pass aimed at reopening the government, but without the funds, the White House is seeking for a border wall.
It includes a package of six full-year spending bills that would fund most of the shuttered part of the government through September. Separately, they will propose a short-term extension of current funding through Feb. 8 for the Department of Homeland Security.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he wouldn’t hold votes on the Democratic bills.
So the fight goes on and nobody knows how many rounds it will take to resolve the differences.