Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown
The Senate passed a stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown set to begin on Friday, sending the bill to President Trump hours ahead of the deadline.
Senators voted 74-20 on the continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through Dec. 20.
In addition to funding the government the stopgap bill also provides funding for U.S. census efforts, a 3.1 percent military pay raise and extents controversial surveillance programs from mid-December to March.
The Senate’s vote capped off 24 hours of behind-the-scenes haggling over how the chamber would pass the stopgap spending package that drove Congress’s passage of the CR down to the wire.
Senate Republicans weighed making a technical change by attaching the text of the CR to another bill than the legislative vehicle used by the House. If they had moved forward with that strategy, the House would have needed to vote a second time on the spending bill, which already passed that chamber on Tuesday.
Republicans worried that the vehicle, a fiscal 2020 package used by the House for the short-term spending measure, would complicate the path to a conference committee on the larger funding bills later this year.
But Republicans ran into objections over their plan that threatened to eat up days of floor time if sensors objected to speeding over procedural hurdles — time they don’t have given the looming shutdown deadline.
Instead the Senate took up the CR as it passed the House, bypassing the need for a second House vote and sending the bill to Trump, where he’s expected to sign it.
Each of the votes in opposition to the CR came from Republicans: Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.) Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) David Perdue (Ga.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
They also voted down an amendment from Paul that would have enacted an across-the-board 1 percent spending cut.
The current funding bill runs out on Thursday night, giving lawmakers approximately 12 hours to get the legislation to Trump’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it.
House Democrats has warned that they would not accept substantive changes.
A House Democratic aide knocked Republicans over the procedural drama, saying holding up the CR was a tactic by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “to keep the lights on so [he] can preserve a talking point.”
“However, if the Senate insists on sending the continuing resolution using a different vehicle today, the House will accept it as a gesture of good faith. The House will not accept any substantive changes to the continuing resolution passed yesterday,” the aide added.
The floor drama belies larger funding fights awaiting lawmakers as they barrel toward another funding deadline days before Christmas.
Thursday’s CR, once it’s passed, will give them roughly 15 session days to work out stalled fights on Trump’s border wall and the top-line figures for each of the 12 bills, known as 302(b)s.
Shelby, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met last week to discuss the top-line figures.
Both House Democrats and Shelby appeared optimistic about the chances of a quick deal, but talks unraveled over the weekend. Both Shelby and Lowey had set Wednesday for the deadline to get an agreement on the top-line figures but lawmakers blew through that.
“Well we have deadlines, and then they come and we create more deadlines,” Shelby said.
Both Pelosi and McConnell have indicated they want to wrap up the fiscal 2020 bills by the end of the year — a lofty goal given the current stalemate.
The House has passed 10 of the 12 fiscal 2020 bills, while the Senate has passed four. But they’ve ironed out final agreements on none of the bills.
They also haven’t yet worked out a deal over the wall. The House provided no new border barrier funding in its Department of Homeland Security bill; the Senate bill by comparison includes $5 billion in the DHS bill and would let Trump reallocate an additional $3.6 billion on military funds.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that lawmakers should be able to separate getting a deal on the top-line figures for each of the 12 bills and getting a deal on the border wall.
“The wall I think is the major impediment. But that’s only one bill: the Department of Homeland Security,” Hoyer said. “But it ought not to adversely affect the other 11 bills. They’re being held hostage, essentially.”
But Shelby argued that getting a deal on both simultaneously would be ideal because it would put negotiators on a path to quickly work out the entirely of the fiscal 2020 bills.
“If we could, we would probably have a package,” Shelby said. “And if you had a package and the president would agree on it, we’d know that if we worked together we would pass these bills and the president would sign them.”
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