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 TrumpOvernight Defense: Families sue over safety hazards at Army base | Lawmakers, NBA's Enes Kanter speak out ahead of Erdoğan visit | Washington braces for public impeachment hearings Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing 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 McConnellLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Biden not ruling out Senate voting to impeach Trump: 'It will depend on what their constituency says' Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate 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 encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Public impeachment hearings to begin next week 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 ShelbyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week 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 ScottLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Pompeo to speak in South Carolina on Veterans Day 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 BluntMcConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week 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 SchumerDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Ilhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election 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.”