Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatened late Thursday a filibuster that, if successful, could threaten a government shutdown this weekend.
McCain said he would filibuster the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill pending in the Senate due to his concerns over the size of the legislation and the earmark projects contained within it.
"The fact is, we should filibuster it, no matter if we shut down the government, because the American people have spoken," McCain said on CNBC.
Congress must authorize new spending to fund basic government operations by Saturday at midnight. Otherwise, the government will undergo a shutdown until funding is provided.
Democrats had made fear of a government shutdown a key aspect of their campaign against Republicans during the fall campaign. The GOP, Democrats charged, would look to relive the 1995 shutdown produced after a disagreement between President Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
Republicans who are mindful of the negative political fallout they suffered due to that shutdown have repeatedly denied interest in a similar showdown with President Obama.
“I don’t think this country is desirous of seeing a government that is shut down,” incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said shortly before the election. “People want to see a government that does what people expect it to do, which is to limit it in scope and reduce spending.”
McCain's threat is the latest move in an ongoing game of brinksmanship between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The GOP prefers a so-called "continuing resolution" that would extend funding at current levels for two months. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced a one-page bill to accomplish just that earlier on Thursday.
McCain said a continuing resolution would be a satisfactory outcome that would force him off his filibuster threat. He noted, though, that at least 41 senators would have to join together to support his effort — and some Republicans might not.
If the GOP were to filibuster, McCain said he expected voters to understand.
"The American people, I think, will understand that all we have to do is pass this continuing resolution," he said.