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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 TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' 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 LeahySen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized What the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Senate sworn in as jurors for Trump impeachment trial 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 DurbinDick DurbinOn The Money: GOP digs in on defending Trump tax cuts | Democrats bullish on raising minimum wage | Financial sector braces for Biden's consumer bureau pick Sen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized Bush-, Obama-era officials urge Senate to swiftly confirm Biden's DHS pick 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 ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama 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 ShaheenModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over 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.

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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 McConnellHumanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate 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 PelosiEverytown urges Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign over newly uncovered remarks Sen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed support on Facebook for violence against Democrats 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.