Senate barrels toward tight budget vote

The Senate is going down to the wire ahead of an expected mid-Thursday vote on a two-year budget and debt ceiling deal.

Senators are expected to start holding votes related to the agreement by 11:30 a.m., with a final vote on the budget deal happening around noon. The agreement will need 60 votes to pass the Senate.

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While leadership has been confident they will be able to wrangle together a bipartisan coalition to send the agreement to President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE’s desk, the vote could be close, with Republicans indicating as late as Wednesday that they were still working to build support within their caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE (R-Ky.) made a final pitch for the agreement on Thursday morning, arguing that it was the best outcome and only game in town with the House already gone for the August recess.

“We knew any bipartisan agreement on funding levels would not appear perfect to either side. But the administration negotiated a strong deal,” McConnell said. “The bipartisan funding deal is the opportunity on the table to continue filling these gaps before it’s too late.”

But members of GOP leadership have stopped short of pledging they’ll be able to put up a majority of their 53-member caucus to support the deal, which would lift spending caps and suspend the debt ceiling through mid-2021.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' MORE (R-S.D.) acknowledged that debt ceiling and spending votes were difficult for Republicans, who would prefer to offset the new spending with cuts or revenue raisers to help pay for the agreement.

"We're continuing to work our members and we're hoping we're going to have a good strong showing," Thune said when asked if half of Republicans would support the deal.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November MORE (R-Ala.), asked if it would be embarrassing if a majority of Republicans opposed the deal, said, “As long as we win it won't be embarrassing."

"If they fail to pass that bill, it would be a huge setback for everybody," he added.

Though Trump has endorsed the deal, conservatives and fiscal hawks have balked because of the hike in nondefense spending and lack of broader offsets for the agreement.

At least 13 Republican senators have announced they will vote against the deal, but that number is expected to climb ahead of the vote. An additional five senators opposed the 2018 budget deal but haven’t said how they’ll vote on Thursday’s agreement. Other GOP senators, including Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition To boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick MORE (R-S.C.), are still weighing how to vote.

The Senate had been expected to vote on the budget agreement on Wednesday.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Mo.) a member of leadership, floated that one reason it might have been delayed until Thursday was because Republicans were working to “maximize the vote.”

Most Democrats are expected to support the deal, though White House hopefuls and progressives are likely to vote against it. Twelve opposed the 2018 budget deal.

The GOP hand wringing over the budget vote has sparked days of chatter within the Capitol about how many Republicans will ultimately oppose Trump’s deal.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) walked by a group of reporters who were waiting outside a GOP meeting on Wednesday. Deepening his voice, in an apparent attempt to mimic McConnell, he said, "Well, we had a very good meeting but we don’t have enough votes to get the budget bill through.”