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Beating the Hurricane: Senators Pass Spending Bill and Finish Votes for the Week

Agreement allows senators to beat any Hurricane Florence delays

A high-definition video image captured from the International Space Station shows the eye of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst)
A high-definition video image captured from the International Space Station shows the eye of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst)

Updated 7:49 P.M. | Senators finished their work on the first bundle of fiscal 2019 spending bills and headed for the exits Wednesday, after they reached a deal to effectively complete the week’s tasks just hours after arriving at the Capitol.

The agreement to allow passage of a three-bill spending package and confirmation of President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Internal Revenue Service, Charles P. Rettig, on Wednesday night will allow senators to head out before too many delays arise from Hurricane Florence’s arrival along the Carolina coast.

The House-Senate conference report to accompany the spending package was adopted, 92-5.

The merged measure covers the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, the Army Corps of Engineers and the operations of Congress, among other accounts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had filed cloture on the conference report for the package when the Senate went into session Wednesday.

Senior appropriators praised the next step in the return to a semblance of regular order.

“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that our partisan disputes on a given issue should not paralyze this institution’s ability to carry out its most fundamental Constitutional responsibility: funding the government,” Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama said just before the vote.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Energy-Water subcommittee responsible for the bulk of the spending in the conference report, was among the senators highlighting home-state priorities.

“Boy Scouts shouldn’t get a merit badge for telling the truth, and senators shouldn’t get an award for passing an appropriations bill: that’s what we are supposed to do. But, it is worth noting that for the first time in nearly 10 years these appropriations bills are on time, and they are also within the budget,” the Tennessee Republican said. “I’m glad we’ve been able to restore the practice of regular order for appropriations from start to finish. I look forward to President Trump signing these bills into law.”

The vote on adopting the spending conference report came shortly after confirmation of Rettig as head of the IRS.

The House Rules Committee was prepared to schedule a meeting once the Senate adopted the conference report, with the measure likely to be cleared for the president’s signature by week’s end.

Members of the House are hoping to pass the three-bill spending package Thursday.

Senators will not be entirely gone from Washington on Wednesday night, with some congressional events remaining on the Thursday agenda.

For instance, the Senate Judiciary Committee still intends to meet Thursday morning for a markup that includes the first appearance on the agenda of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

As is customary, the Kavanaugh nomination is expected to be held over for one week.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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