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 TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address 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 McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project 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 ThuneRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties 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 ShelbyFights over police reform, COVID-19 delay Senate appropriations markups Trump's push for major infrastructure bill faces GOP opposition Watchdogs express concern to lawmakers about ability to oversee coronavirus relief funds 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 ScottSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents The Memo: Trump grows weak as clock ticks down GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday 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 BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Senate GOP starting to draft next coronavirus proposal 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 SchumerChuck SchumerPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday 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.”