Senate Republicans eye Friday spending votes
© Greg Nash
Senate Republicans are suggesting they could take up a tax package and end-of-the-year spending bill as early as Friday, as they head toward a holiday recess. 
"Nobody, I think, sees any benefit of stringing this out any longer than necessary, so my hope is that we'll be able to conclude this Friday," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas), the chamber's Republican whip, told reporters. 
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, said on Wednesday afternoon that he would "expect" leadership to try to move the omnibus-tax package on Friday after it is sent over from the House. 
"I think that will be the plan," he added.
Cornyn had previously suggested that the Senate could try to vote on the proposals on Thursday. The House, however, is now expected to vote on the end-of-the-year spending bill Friday, pushing back votes in the Senate. 
To vote on the measures on Friday Republican leadership would need to get consent from every senator to speed up the votes and avoid keeping lawmakers here into next week. The Senate is also expected to pass a short-term spending bill later Wednesday that would give lawmakers until Tuesday to pass the legislation. 
Cornyn added that the omnibus spending bill and the tax package could be merged "in the interest of time," but stressed that hadn't been finalized. 
The comments come after Senate Republicans huddled in a closed-door meeting earlier Wednesday to discuss the omnibus spending bill as well as a separate tax package. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) called the discussion "productive," saying that he walked Republican lawmakers through the details of the legislation. 
Coming out of the meeting, Republicans largely suggested they were still digesting the 2,009-page omnibus legislation, which was released after 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. 
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (R-Ohio), who like Toomey faces a tough reelection bid next year, said that he's still looking through the legislation. He described the omnibus as "a monstrosity," because of its size, before touting pro-Ohio provisions included in the bill. 
Corker added that "large bills like this ... give everyone heartburn. But based on what I know about it leaving this meeting, you know, I do think there's a number of very positive things in the omni." 
But the legislation is already getting pushback from some Republicans. 
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Banking Committee, quickly became a "no" vote. 
"No, it's got some things in it that I don't plan to support," he told reporters when asked if he would vote for the omnibus bill, though he didn't specify his objections. 
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) railed both on and off the Senate floor about a provision that would lift restrictions on the use of Russian-made rocket engines. 
The Arizona Republican, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, slammed the measure as "pork barrel parochialism" that would "line the pocket of Putin's gang of thugs." 
He said that he would vote against the omnibus unless the provision is removed. 
"It borders on corruption," he told reporters, placing blame on Shelby and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Ill.) for adding the provision to the omnibus legislation. 
Asked if Shelby had discussed the matter with him, McCain fired back, "Of course not, that's not the way Sen. Shelby does business." 
"We must also consider the many troublesome provisions that didn't wind up in the legislation," he said. "When this matter came from the House — no more than 200 so-called riders, and they didn't wind up in the bill." 
Asked about Democratic posturing, Cornyn suggested that "there's a certain amount of theater going on."