Senate

Senate races to pass funding deal, Ukraine aid

Senate Republican leaders are offering a deal to Democrats to speed up passage of a sweeping government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid. 

The GOP says they’ll agree to an accelerated schedule if Democrats give them up-or-down amendment votes on GOP priorities.

Senators are facing an end-of-the-day Friday deadline to pass a bill to fund the government or risk a shutdown. The House passed a sweeping $1.5 trillion bill and a days-long continuing resolution on Wednesday night before leaving town. 

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that Republicans were asking for three to four amendment votes in exchange for an agreement to speed up the government funding bills. 

“We’re taking to them an amendment proposal that I think — if they are agreeable to it, we’re willing to trade time for votes. If they will give our members their votes, I think we can probably wrap this up today,” Thune said. 

Even if the Senate passed the sprawling deal on funding the government through the end of September and Ukraine aid, they are still expected to need to pass the days-long CR to buy time to print the formal copy of the bill and get it to President Biden’s desk for his signature. 

The amendments that Republicans want votes on include proposals they’ve brought up as part of the debate on previous funding bills. 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and a group of GOP senators are insisting on a simple majority vote to defund Biden vaccine mandates for medical workers, military personnel, federal employees and federal contractors.

“It’s germane. I’m not settling for 60. I am going to get a vote. If I don’t get a vote, I’m not going to give them time,” Lee said. 

 

Lee got a similar vote during the Senate’s consideration of a short-term funding bill in February. It failed, and aides have predicted he’ll get a new vote on the omnibus. 

Thune said Republicans also want a vote on a balanced budget amendment from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). But Braun clarified that he’s seeking an amendment vote instead to strip earmarks out of the bill.

“Just to highlight earmarks,” Braun said about his plans. “We just recently did that [on balanced budget]… so I would say that would be a redundancy.”

Lawmakers are hoping to move quickly to pass the government funding bills. 

“Once this bill arrives at the Senate, Republicans must work with Democrats to pass the bill as soon as possible, hopefully tonight. There is every reason in the world to believe that we can arrive at a path forward quickly,”  said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

The Senate typically leaves town for the week on Thursday and Thune predicted that it “should” pass today if they are able to cut a deal. 

But as of Thursday morning the House-passed bill hadn’t yet been sent to the Senate, in a potential snag.

And because the Senate is up against a deadline, they’ll need buy-in from all 100 senators to agree to speed up the bill. Aides cautioned that the debate could spill into Friday and any one GOP senator could drag the process into the weekend.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said that he was going to try to separate the Ukraine aid from the omnibus. He declined to say if he would agree to speed up the omnibus once that effort likely fails. 

Asked about passing a massive bill only days after it was publicly unveiled, Thune said that the process “stinks.” And he didn’t rule out that a GOP senator could try to drag out the bill over frustration with the process.

“If people haven’t had a chance to plow through it yet … it could drag on for a few days,” Thune said. 

—Alexander Bolton contributed 

This story was updated at 2:06 p.m.

Tags Appropriations Budget Charles Schumer government funding Joe Biden John Thune Mike Braun Mike Lee omnibus Rick Scott

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