Senate Passes Budget Deal With Shutdown Underway

Prospects for House action are less clear

Storm clouds pass over the dome of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 23, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Storm clouds pass over the dome of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 23, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:54am

The Senate passed the bipartisan budget agreement in the wee hours of Friday morning, with a brief government shutdown having already kicked in.

The 71-28 vote on the $320 billion package that would reopen the government through March 23 sends the measure to the House, where the prospects are believed to be more precarious. The House vote may not take place until some federal workers are already on their way to work Friday morning.

In the Senate, the delay in passage was prompted by an objection from Sen. Rand Paul.

The Kentucky Republican wanted to offer an amendment to restore the budget caps, but leadership blocked that fearing that any amendments could open a Pandora’s box undermining the agreement.

The sprawling legislation passed by the Senate would extend government funding through March 23, raise discretionary spending limits for two years, suspend the debt limit until March 2019 and more.

Paul spoke at length on the Senate floor about his objection to massive spending hikes in the bill, which he called a “bipartisan looting of the Treasury,” and his desire for an amendment debate.

“Are we to be conservative all the time or only when we’re in the minority?” Paul said ahead of the cloture vote.

When the Senate reconvened just after midnight as appropriations lapsed, Chaplain Barry C. Black, a retired Navy rear admiral, offered a pointed prayer to start the new day.

“Give wisdom to our lawmakers, remind them how brief their time on earth will be,” Black said.

Senators from both parties took to the floor to criticize Paul’s stand and to ask the libertarian-leaning Kentuckian to back down.

That included Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, who had offered a series of unanimous consent requests to move up the debate.

“I don’t know why we are basically burning time here while the senator from Kentucky and others are sitting in the Cloakroom wasting everybody’s time and inconveniencing the staff,” Cornyn said on the floor Thursday night. “We could easily move this matter forward and have a vote. The outcome will be exactly the same.”

Support for the legislation in the House remained hazy as the Senate voted. Many Republicans said they were not eager to increase spending and put the debt limit on ice, while Democrats threatened to withhold support without a promise from Speaker Paul D. Ryan that the House will have an open floor debate on an immigration measure.

“Our request is that you publicly state that you will schedule a vote to consider the bipartisan Hurd-Aguilar bill and any other DACA bills that you wish to consider, under a Queen of the Hill rule,” House Democratic leaders wrote in a letter to Ryan, referring to a measure from Republican Will Hurd of Texas and Democrat Pete Aguilar of California.

President Donald Trump intends to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program March 5. The program shields from deportation young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.