© Greg Nash
The Senate on Wednesday approved the first spending package for the 2019 fiscal year in its final form, pushing ahead a spending process that has been more productive than any in a decade.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved the so-called minibus package of three spending bills — military construction and veterans’ affairs, legislative branch, and energy and water — on a bipartisan basis in a pair of 92-5 votes.
The House is expected to vote on an identical $147 billion package this week and send it to the president’s desk for his signature.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) praised the vote as “another step forward on regular appropriations.”
“These are national priorities with local impacts that will be felt in every one of our states. … So we’re looking forward to taking another step forward on regular appropriations and passing this conference report,” he said ahead of the Senate’s vote.
The two chambers finalized their agreement on the trio of bills on Monday after a contentious debate over how to fund a veteran’s care program.
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised On The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP MORE (D-Vt.) had insisted on further raising the spending cap for veterans to accommodate the program, but lost out in the end. Leahy said the decision would leave the VA choice program unfunded in the future.
Congress has until the end of the month to fund the government and avoid the third shutdown of the year. The bill passed Wednesday is one of three packages comprising nine spending bills Congress hopes to get to President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE’s desk before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.
It plans to use a continuing resolution (CR) to keep current funding in place for the three final bills, which include funding for President Trump’s controversial border wall.
Trump has threatened to shut down the government if Congress fails to allocate a sufficient level of funds toward his signature project.
"If it happens it happens. If it's about border security, I'm willing to do anything," Trump said last week about the prospects of a shutdown.
But GOP leaders expect him to hold off on any such threats until after November’s midterm elections.
"I expect us to do a short-term continuing resolution for the balance of the funding and have the discussion about how to fund the wall after the election," McConnell told Fox News in an interview last week.
Asked about funding for the U.S-Mexico border wall, he added: “We still want to get funding for the wall. ... But we think the best time to have that discussion is after the election."
Republicans are hoping to turn next week to a massive spending package that would fund the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, even though the House is out of town.
But Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Cornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, and Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBlack Hawk pilot shot down in Somalia jumps into Alabama Senate race Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans MORE (R-Ala.) warned that a deal wasn’t locked in yet.
Conference committee meetings to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the second and third spending bills are set for Thursday, though it is unclear when the two chambers will reach a final agreement.
“We hope to do that. If we do it, it will be a big portion,” Shelby said, adding that a deal on a conference report was “imminent.”
Asked about the hold ups, he joked that reporters should “guess,” before adding, “We’re trying to finish it up. We haven’t finished it yet.”