Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections

Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved its annual defense spending bill on a 16-15 party-line vote, despite Democratic objections over President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE’s border wall.

"Funding an ineffective, failed campaign promise, which the president promised Mexico would pay for, is not a priority of the American people and should not be the priority of this committee,” said Vice Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyVermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Hillicon Valley: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts | Bipartisan support grows for election funds in Senate stimulus bill | Senate committee advances bill to ban TikTok from federal devices MORE (D-Vt.).

The split vote raises questions for the Senate’s ability to pass spending legislation — which must also be reconciled with the Democratic-controlled House — ahead of a Sept. 30 funding deadline.

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Democrats objected to the fact that the bill did not explicitly block Trump from raiding defense funds and redirecting them toward building the wall under the auspices of a national emergency.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Campaign Report: Who will Biden pick to be his running mate? Don't count out Duckworth in Biden VP race Schumer: Trump should want COVID-19 deal to help GOP election chances MORE (D-Ill.) said that appropriators want to take the Pentagon’s budget request at face value, and not worry they are inflated to allow funds “found in couch cushions” to be redirected.

“We’re being taken for a ride here on at least $7 billion of cushion money,” he said.

Democrats also voted against a plan to divvy up nearly $1.3 trillion among the 12 spending bills that fund the federal government and its major programs. They objected that extra funds for the wall had inflated the Homeland Security account at the expense of Democratic priorities such as health care.

Republicans said that limiting the president’s transfer authority would be too broad a fix, and noted that they included offsets from mandatory spending funds toward the main health bill.

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“All in all, I believe the chairman’s proposal is entirely reasonable, given where we are in the process,” said Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal Mnuchin: Negotiators no closer to coronavirus deal than a week ago MORE (R-Ala.).

“The time for haggling over the terms of the budget agreement is past,” he added.

Democrats and Republicans agreed to a top-line spending deal over the summer, an agreement that also promised to keep controversial policy amendments out of the process.

Two other spending bills, funding the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments as well as the State Department and foreign operations, were pulled from the hearing as Democrats prepared amendments to restrict a Trump rule that limits funds for organizations that provide information on abortion.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (D-N.H.) said at the hearing that she had been reassured that there would be further opportunities to deal with Democratic objections, including final negotiations with the Democratic-led House.

But she expressed dismay that her amendment on the abortion bill had been pulled, noting that it had not been considered a “poison pill” in years past.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's election delay red herring On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project MORE (R-Ky.), who sits on the committee, noted that the controversy threatened the ability of the Senate to proceed with plans to pass at least one “minibus” package of several spending bills by the end of the month.

Both McConnell and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-Calif.) have agreed that a stopgap measure will be needed, likely until mid-November, to keep the government running when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The committee did approve the energy and water bill, among the least controversial of the annual spending bills, unanimously.

McConnell can now bring both bills to the Senate floor for a vote, where they face an uncertain fate.