FEATURED:

Senate edges closer to final vote on energy spending bill

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to clear a key procedural hurdle on an annual spending bill for energy and water development programs.

In a 97-2 vote, the Senate ended debate and moved to a final vote on the $37.5 billion spending bill, which would provide funding for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers for fiscal year 2017.

If it passes, it will be the first appropriations bill that the Senate passes this year.

It was the fourth time in recent weeks that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP Senate candidate: Kavanaugh 'debacle' 'hugely motivating' to Missouri voters Trump praises McConnell: He ‘stared down the angry left-wing mob’ to get Kavanaugh confirmed Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge MORE (R-Ky.) tried to win a cloture motion ending debate on the energy bill.

Democrats had denied cloture three times to protest the possibility that Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonFlake: Congress should not continue Kavanaugh investigations GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter Susan Collins becomes top 2020 target for Dems MORE (R-Ark.) could force a vote related to Iran’s nuclear program.

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Party leaders resolved that impasse by allowing a separate vote on Cotton’s proposal, which failed earlier Wednesday.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.), the main sponsor of the spending bill, said the legislation is ready to pass.

“We’re ready to finish the bill we have had terrific cooperation from senators on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “More than 80 senators have made a contribution to the bill. It has importance to every part of our country.”

“It’s a well-designed bill and we’re ready to finish the bill,” he said.

The procedural vote was technically on a substitute amendment from Alexander, which senators have been treating as the main piece of legislation.