Senate edges closer to budget vote after Rand Paul blockade

Senate edges closer to budget vote after Rand Paul blockade
© Getty

The Senate is nearing passage of a budget deal after lawmakers agreed to end debate early Friday morning.

Senators voted 73-26 to wrap up the two-year deal, which also lifts the debt ceiling and would fund the government through March 23 and end a brief government shutdown.
 
Late-night floor drama sprang up late Thursday after GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Lawmakers struggle with how to punish Saudi Arabia | Trump regrets not visiting Arlington for Veterans Day | North Korea deports detained American Hillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails MORE (Ky.) refused to let the chamber speed up the vote, forcing Congress to miss a midnight deadline to fund the government.

Under Senate rules, the earliest lawmakers could cut off debate on the spending deal was early Friday morning unless they got an agreement from every senator — which Paul refused.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They get in power and they decide, we're just going to spend that money too. We're going to send that money to our friends this time. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty," Paul said from the Senate floor.

Paul wanted leadership to give him a vote on an amendment to keep budget caps in place. But Senate leaders, warning that they couldn't give into Paul's demand without opening up a flood gate of similar requests, instead offered to let him raise a budget point of order.

“It’s his right, of course, to vote against the bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Democrats gear up to challenge Trump in 2020, the key political divide will be metropolitan versus rural McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (R-Ky.) said earlier Thursday. “But I would argue that it’s time to vote.”

But when McConnell and several other GOP senators tried to move up an initial vote, Paul objected.

Paul's tactics meant the government missed a midnight deadline to stave off a government shutdown, which comes roughly three weeks after Democrats — aided by a small band of Republicans — forced the government to shutter for three days.

GOP senators blasted the libertarian-leaning senator late Thursday, arguing he was delaying the inevitable passage of the budget deal.

"I think people understand this is the act of a single senator who is just trying to make a point but doesn't really care too much about who he inconveniences," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump’s backing may not be enough on criminal justice reform Congress should ban life without parole sentences for children  Senate GOP discussing Mueller vote MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

It's unclear when the Senate will take a final vote on the budget deal, but it's expected to be within hours. And with only a simple majority needed, it's widely expected to pass.

A group of progressive senators, widely viewed as contenders for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, will oppose the budget because it does not include a fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Meanwhile, a coalition of fiscal hawks and conservatives are opposing the bill, arguing it blows a hole in the deficit.

“This budget deal shows the American people exactly how broken our budget and appropriations process is," Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHouse GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office The Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority Midterm vote to set cyber agenda MORE (R-Okla.) said in announcing his opposition to the deal.

"It does not address our runaway deficits, and actually takes major steps backwards in the fight to reign in Washington’s overspending appetite."