Senate edges closer to final vote on energy spending bill

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to clear a key procedural hurdle on an annual spending bill for energy and water development programs.

In a 97-2 vote, the Senate ended debate and moved to a final vote on the $37.5 billion spending bill, which would provide funding for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers for fiscal year 2017.

If it passes, it will be the first appropriations bill that the Senate passes this year.

It was the fourth time in recent weeks that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Sen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ky.) tried to win a cloture motion ending debate on the energy bill.

Democrats had denied cloture three times to protest the possibility that Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Cotton: Reducing mandatory minimum sentencing isn’t reform, it’s jailbreak MORE (R-Ark.) could force a vote related to Iran’s nuclear program.

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Party leaders resolved that impasse by allowing a separate vote on Cotton’s proposal, which failed earlier Wednesday.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGovernor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries A single courageous senator can derail the Trump administration GOP worries trade wars will last as Trump engages in temporary tiffs MORE (R-Tenn.), the main sponsor of the spending bill, said the legislation is ready to pass.

“We’re ready to finish the bill we have had terrific cooperation from senators on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “More than 80 senators have made a contribution to the bill. It has importance to every part of our country.”

“It’s a well-designed bill and we’re ready to finish the bill,” he said.

The procedural vote was technically on a substitute amendment from Alexander, which senators have been treating as the main piece of legislation.