Congress again misses deadline to avert government shutdown
For the second time in less than a month, Congress has blown past a deadline to avert a government shutdown.
The latest shutdown, which technically started at midnight Thursday, came after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to let the Senate speed up a budget deal.
Paul objected to several requests to move up an initial vote on the spending deal to before the midnight deadline as leadership raced to stave off a brief, partial closure.
The Kentucky Republican senator showed no signs of backing down, even as frustrated GOP colleagues lashed out, warning he would be be responsible for shutting down the government.
“What you’re seeing is recklessness trying to be passed off as bipartisanship. … [Leadership is] holding hands, and there’s only one bad guy standing in the way. One guy that’s going to keep up here until three in the morning,” Paul said.
Under Senate rules, the earliest the chamber could vote on the two-year budget deal was early Friday morning unless every senator agreed to speed things up. With Paul’s objections, the Senate recessed until after midnight on Thursday.
The two-year spending deal lifts budget caps by roughly $300 billion, includes an increase in the debt ceiling until March 2019 and would keep the government open through March 23.
The deal is expected to pass the Senate early Friday morning, despite Paul’s standoff.
“The outcome is going to be precisely the same. I understand he wants to make a point and he’s done that, but to shut down the entire federal government at midnight tonight is just grossly irresponsible,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters.
“I don’t know why we are basically burning time here while the senator from Kentucky and others are sitting in the cloakroom wasting everybody’s time and inconveniencing the staff,” added Cornyn.
After the bill clears the Senate it would then go to the House, where its fate is uncertain. Conservatives have blasted the agreement for its impact on the deficit and Democrats are increasingly opposed because it doesn’t include an immigration fix.
The latest guidance from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) office said the House could vote as late as 6 a.m.
“At this point, we expect next votes in the House to occur at very roughly 3:00-6:00 a.m.,” the notice to member said.
Congress similarly missed a deadline to fund the government last month after Senate Democrats protested the lack of an immigration deal in a spending bill, forcing a three-day government shutdown.
Updated on Feb. 9 at 12:00 a.m.