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Senate reaches deal to start voting on appropriations package

Schumer sees votes on amendments on Wednesday morning

Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he expects the Senate to begin voting Wednesday on amendments to a package of three fiscal 2024 spending bills.
Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he expects the Senate to begin voting Wednesday on amendments to a package of three fiscal 2024 spending bills.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday that Senate leaders had reached an agreement paving the way for floor consideration of its three-bill spending “minibus,” a breakthrough after weeks of stalemate.

With the agreement in place, the Senate can start floor consideration of the package that would combine the fiscal 2024 Military Construction-VA, Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills. The House-passed Military Construction-VA bill is being used as the legislative vehicle for the spending package.

“It took a while to work through … negotiations on many poison pill amendments that, in my judgment, shouldn’t have been offered to begin with,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor. “But here we are, we’re moving forward.”

Schumer said votes on amendments to the spending package could start as soon as Wednesday morning.

The agreement provides for the consideration of about 40 amendments, six of which would need 60 votes to be adopted.

The three bills would be the first fiscal 2024 appropriations legislation to pass the Senate. The House has passed four bills, one of them being a Homeland Security measure that it is not sending on until the Senate takes action on a House border security bill.

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., took the floor to praise the deal and remind colleagues of the need to pass the remaining appropriations bills, along with supplemental spending legislation to send aid to Israel and Ukraine, and a second to shore up domestic programs, including child care.

“Bipartisanship is the only way to get the job done in a divided government,” Murray said. “Now, we need to remember the lessons as we continue working to pass our full appropriations bills, support our allies in Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region, shore up our disaster relief funds, and address the child care crisis, and more.”

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, top Republican on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said with an agreement in place, he expects the Senate to move quickly through consideration of the package.

“The way we have it teed up … a lot of those amendments, we could voice vote or en bloc vote. So I think if we can get on it, we can finish it in a week,” Hoeven said last week while leadership was still hammering out the details. 

When senators returned to Washington last week, the chamber seemed poised to take up the minibus that had stalled before the October recess as lawmakers fought for floor consideration of their amendments and the more immediate need to avert a government shutdown took priority. A continuing resolution will fund the government through Nov. 17.

Still, barriers emerged after senators returned, holding up consideration of the package, including Democratic objections to an amendment offered by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., that would preserve gun rights for veterans who have a financial professional appointed to manage VA benefits. Currently, the Veterans Affairs Department is required to notify the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System if that occurs. 

Kennedy reworked the amendment’s language, and opponents agreed to fight it on the floor. 

Democrats’ objections to an amendment offered by Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., with West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, also caused trouble late last week.

The amendment would stop the Transportation Department from directing state and metropolitan transportation authorities to establish their own targets for lowering and measuring carbon emissions. The DOT proposed the rule last year, but hasn’t implemented it. 

The amendment will be considered on the floor as part of the agreement with a 60-vote adoption threshold, according to Schumer. Cramer said he agreed to the 60-vote threshold to avoid delaying the bill.

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