Finance

Senate panel cancels vote on key spending bill amid standoff

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday canceled votes on two spending bills that had been scheduled for the following day, marking the latest sign of turmoil as lawmakers try to fund the government beyond Sept. 30.

 
The panel had been scheduled to vote Thursday on spending bills covering the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education, as well as the State Department and foreign operations.
 
HHS-Labor-Education, in particular, is viewed as a key priority for Democrats, but had emerged as a headache this week because of fights on controversial issues including abortion and President Trump’s border wall.
 
{mosads}Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told a small group of reporters on Tuesday that he was likely to cancel the panel vote on the legislation unless he could work out a deal with Democrats on how to proceed.
 
“We’re not sure that HHS will be one” that we’ll vote on Thursday, Shelby said. “They might come around on HHS, they might not. We’ll have to see.”
 
The committee is still expected to vote Thursday on a defense spending bill and a spending measure covering energy and water development.
 
Canceling the full committee vote on HHS-Labor-Education comes after a subcommittee vote on the same bill, scheduled for Tuesday, was also canceled.
 
Republicans argued that Democrats were trying to violate the spirit of a two-year budget deal by offering “poison pill” amendments.
 
The backlash from Republicans was sparked by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray’s (Wash.) plan to offer an amendment to HHS-Labor-Education that would block the Trump administration’s Title X rule that prohibits federal funds for health care providers who offer information about abortion.
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted Democrats on the Senate floor on Wednesday, saying there were “some disturbing signals that Democrats may be rethinking that commitment.”

Democrats argue that senators should go on record with their positions on the issue.

“If Senate Republicans are more willing to listen to President Trump than women and patients in their own states, they should own up to it and be willing to let their votes show it,” said Murray, the top Democrat on the Appropriations labor subcommittee.

 
Democrats are also accusing Republicans of shifting $5 billion from the bill to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill as part of funding for the border.
 

“They added $5 billion. They took it out of HHS and put it into DHS,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters during a weekly press conference. 

 
He added from the Senate floor on Wednesday that McConnell knows “very well this will not fly with Senate Democrats. We’re not going to vote for a budget that is partisan, attempted to be jammed down our throat.”
Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Richard Shelby
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