Senate advances first 2015 Appropriations bill

The Senate advanced its first 2015 Appropriations bill in a procedural vote Tuesday.

The Senate voted 95-3 to end debate on the motion to proceed to H.R. 4660, the House Commerce and Justice Appropriations bill. More than 30 Republicans voted with Democrats. GOP Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were the only "no" votes.

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The Senate is using the House-passed bill, but will amend it with a “minibus” package of spending bills.

The Senate's $120 billion minibus includes funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

The House already passed H.R. 4660, making it easier for the Senate to send the legislation back to the House and set up a conference committee to work out differences between the two chambers.

Earlier Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that if the “minibus” advances without hiccups, that he would take that as a positive sign for other appropriations bills to come. It’s unclear if he’ll allow any amendment votes. If he doesn’t allow amendments, Republicans could pull their support and block the legislation from moving forward.

“The manner in which we handle these funding measures will largely dictate how other appropriations bills are managed over the coming months,” Reid said. “Given the importance of appropriations legislation and the need to keep our government operating, we look forward to a cooperative amendment process and participation from all senators.”

The Senate is expected to spend the rest of the week debating the measure.

It’s unlikely the Senate will complete work on all 12 Appropriations bills before the November elections, partly because Republicans would oppose the controversial Labor, Health and Human Services bill, which funds ObamaCare and contains $1 billion to deal with illegal immigrant children.