By Ramsey Cox
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday moved forward on a $984 billion spending bill after GOP senators lifted their hold on the measure.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had blocked the bill Tuesday, arguing that they had not been given enough time to read the 587-page legislation and charging that it contained wasteful spending.
Coburn took the floor on Wednesday and said he had finished reviewing the bill and was ready to proceed.
The bill, negotiated by Senate appropriators, would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and avert a government shutdown.
“This is a real shame,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “I said last week that we’d have opportunity for amendments … but each day that goes by we’re unable to have the amendment process.”
But Coburn defended the delay, saying that senators needed more time to properly review the bill's provisions.
“We have no objection to proceeding to this bill if there is a fair and open process,” Coburn said on the floor. “There was no attempt to filibuster this bill, there was an attempt to do our jobs.”
Reid wants to finish the process on the spending resolution so that the upper chamber can switch its attention to moving Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) budget proposal before the Easter recess.
The Senate is hoping to conclude work on the measure this week and send it back to the House for a final vote. If the House and Senate do not agree to a measure by March 27, the government could shut down.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) negotiated the bill, which sets the same spending levels as a government funding measure approved by the House last week.
But the Senate bill adds three full appropriations measures to the House version. The House bill, H.R. 933, funded defense, military construction and veterans programs, while the Senate version adds appropriations for agriculture, homeland security, and the commerce, justice and science funds.