Senate

Senate approves funding bill, preventing partial government shutdown

The Senate approved a seven-week funding bill on Wednesday, preventing a partial government shutdown that was expected to begin on Saturday.

Senators passed the legislation by voice vote, which represented the final item on the Senate’s to-do list as they wrap up their work for the year this week.

{mosads}It still needs to pass the House, which returned to Washington on Wednesday night, and be signed by President Trump.

Republican senators say that while they believe Trump is unhappy with Congress passing a short-term fix, they believe he will sign it because they were able to keep other controversial policy riders off of it.

“I think the message is don’t add anything else to it,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “He’s not happy about that [a continuing resolution] but he understands the reality.”

The stopgap bill, which will fund roughly 25 percent of the federal government, kicks the funding deadline from Dec. 21 to Feb. 8, avoiding dragging a partial shutdown fight into the Christmas holiday.

A vote on the bill was temporarily held up Wednesday over a fight on whether or not to include a land and water measure, which has been stalled amid negotiations for months. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is also pushing for legislation benefiting miners to be attached to the short-term spending package.

Senators were spotted singing multiple Christmas carols as they waited for action on the continuing resolution.

Though members of the impromptu choir rotated as senators shuffled around the floor, Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Tim Kaine (Va.) took part in the group. Senators were able to work through multiple songs as they waited for their colleagues to arrive back at the Capitol, including “Jingle Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “O Holy Night.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), seizing on the holiday spirit, closed a vote that required senators to return to the Capitol by quipping, “The yeas are 71, the nays are 21 — with Rudolph responding present.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), in apparent reference to the floor antics, tweeted: “‘Tis the season.”

Senators held out hope as recently as Tuesday that they would be able to scramble together a deal to fund the remaining seven out of the 12 appropriations bills through Sept. 30, the end of the 2019 fiscal year.

But both sides remained far apart on funding for the U.S.–Mexico border wall. Trump and House Republicans want $5 billion for the wall. Democrats, meanwhile, dug in at $1.3 billion as their cap and insisted that it would go toward fencing, not a physical concrete wall.

Hopes for a long-term deal seesawed throughout the week amid a shuffle of meetings and competing theories from lawmakers about what they would be able to agree to.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters Monday that he thought Trump could make a decision by 5 p.m. Monday, but that deadline came and went. And Shelby, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) huddled in McConnell’s office on Tuesday morning to try to craft a path forward.

But hope of a long-term deal was quickly dashed when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that Democrats couldn’t accept the deal offered by Republicans.

“Sen. Schumer — Leader Schumer and I have said that we cannot accept the offer they made of a billion dollar slush fund for the president to implement his very wrong immigration policies, so that won’t happen,” Pelosi said on Tuesday.

Republicans acknowledged that the Democratic rejection of their offer made punting the funding fight all but inevitable.

{mossecondads}A GOP senator who attended the lunch predicted leadership would end up with a stopgap bill, adding, “They’re still going to try to work it out in a different way, but my guess is they won’t.”

Shelby told reporters hours later that he had been asked to draft a CR that lasted into February, and McConnell made it official on Wednesday morning by announcing his plan to bring up the short-term bill.

“I’m sorry that my Democratic colleagues couldn’t put the partisanship aside and show the same good-faith flexibility that the president has shown in order to provide the resources our nation needs to secure the integrity of our borders as well as the safety of American families,” McConnell said. “But this seems to be the reality of our political moment.”

Conservative lawmakers and pundits are blasting GOP leaders and Trump over the stopgap spending measure.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) questioned in a tweet: “Let me get this straight… our chances of getting the Wall will be better in February when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker than now when we have the majority?”

But the White House appeared increasingly resolved to a continuing resolution as the week stretched on, the deadline looming and no long-term deal in sight.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that “at the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government.”

Trump appeared ready to fight on for the wall next year, saying in a tweet Wednesday that “one way or the other, we will win on the Wall!”

“In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death,” he wrote early Wednesday.

“We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!”

Tags border wall funding Charles Schumer Continuing resolution Donald Trump government funding Heidi Heitkamp Jeff Flake Jim Jordan Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John Cornyn Kirsten Gillibrand Mark Warner Mazie Hirono Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby Senate Tim Kaine
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