Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Mikulski and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have negotiated a $984 billion bill that sets the same spending levels as a government funding measure approved by the House earlier this month.
“We think we have a way of working out some of our concerns, if we take a bit of a breather,” Mikulski said. “We are working through our legislative issues here, and at 2 p.m. we will proceed to a series of votes.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had hoped to finish work on the bill at the beginning of this week, but he ran into GOP opposition. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) objected to Reid’s attempts to hold a final passage vote before debate time had expired on both Monday and Tuesday. The Republican senators wanted votes on their amendments to the $984 billion bill that would have mitigated sequester cuts.
Moran’s amendment would stop the closing of air traffic control towers as a result of sequestration cuts by moving $50 million in the Federal Aviation Administration and Ayotte’s amendment would move $380 million in defense spending for a missile program to the operations and maintenance fund.
“It seems to me that we owe it to our troops that we ensure our taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on this missile program,” Ayotte said Wednesday, ahead of Mikulski’s announcement. “It’s shocking to me that this amendment makes so much sense, has bipartisan support and yet can’t get a vote.”
Reid had hoped to complete work on the spending resolution earlier this week so that the Senate could begin work on the budget. If a deal isn’t reached by 2 p.m. Wednesday, the 50 hours of debate on the budget won’t start until Thursday morning, meaning senators could be working through the weekend.