All eyes on Paul with shutdown looming

As the Senate barrels toward the third government funding deadline of the year, Republicans appear in the dark about one key question: What will Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) do?

The libertarian-minded senator caused an hours-long shutdown in February. He's yet to say if he'll give a repeat performance going into the midnight Friday deadline to avoid a partial closure.

"Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses — and parties. $1.3 trillion. Busts budget caps. 2200 pages, with just hours to try to read it," he tweeted on Thursday. 

Republican leadership wants to pass the omnibus funding bill Thursday, but senators acknowledged that timeline all comes down to Paul, and they appear to have no idea what he is going to do.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynOcasio-Cortez announces slate of all-female congressional endorsements Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Texas) noted he has not spoken to Paul but predicted with a smile: "He'll speak up."


"I think people realize the handwriting is on the wall," he said. "I just figured I would let him speak up if he wants to speak, and if he doesn't we'll vote."

Asked about the chamber's timeline for voting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat Everytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems MORE (R-Ky.) added, "Whenever Sen. Paul decides we can."

Under the Senate's rules the earliest the Senate could hold an initial vote would be early Saturday morning — roughly an hour after the midnight deadline to avoid a partial government closure. 

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) signaled earlier Thursday that he was undecided on whether he would let the chamber speed up votes. He said after a closed-door caucus lunch that he wouldn't delay the bill.  

"I'm not going to try to delay it out of respect for my colleagues," he said. 

Republican senators said Paul's plan did not come up during the lunch, which was largely a tribute to retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate MORE (R-Miss.). 

"There are a lot of people who are going to put pressure on him," said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).

Asked if there was an effort to "prevail" on Paul, he added: "There always is. I'm not being cute. I think there always is an effort. ... There's no benefit to waiting at this point."

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Republicans expect Trump to pull controversial Fed nominee | Inside Judy Shelton's confirmation hearing | Trump extends emergency declaration at border Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee Pentagon transferring .8 billion to border wall MORE (R-Ala.), asked if the Senate would be able to vote on Thursday, pointed to the Kentucky senator.

"Have y’all spoken to Sen. Paul?" he asked reporters. "Felt his pulse?”