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 blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate 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.