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.


While leadership has been confident they will be able to wrangle together a bipartisan coalition to send the agreement to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat 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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year Congress must reinstate assault weapons ban 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 ThuneTrump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same 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 ShelbySenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine 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 ScottTo boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian 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 BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? 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.”