Senate Scrambles to Prevent a Shutdown and Pass Defense Bill

Senate Scrambles to Prevent a Shutdown and Pass Defense Bill

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

With government funding set to run out Friday night, the Senate is still working to pass a one-week stopgap spending bill to avert a partial shutdown of federal agencies. It advanced the measure in a 75-20 procedural vote Thursday afternoon and could clear a couple of hurdles to pass the bill later as soon as Thursday night.

The House passed the week-long measure Wednesday night in a 224-201 vote. Nine Republicans voted for it, but most in the House GOP caucus opposed the funding patch and have also been at odds with their Senate counterparts over the year-long spending package being finalized by congressional negotiators. House Republicans had hoped to delay the annual spending bill until they took control of the chamber and had more leverage to cut spending.

“We should be passing a continuing resolution into next year instead of buying more time to rush through a massive spending package,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said.

The Senate is also preparing to vote on the annual defense policy bill, which calls for $858 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2023. That bill was reportedly held up over a demand from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) for a vote on an amendment that would cap lawyers’ fees in lawsuits tied to water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. “That’s the snag,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters. “Democrats are a little apoplectic about how to deal with it.”

What’s next: Senate leaders are hoping to pass both the stopgap funding measure and the defense policy bill Thursday night. Assuming the Senate can pass the one-week funding bill, lawmakers will look to finalize the larger omnibus spending bill next week. House and Senate appropriators reportedly distributed to subcommittees the allocation levels for the 12 spending bills that comprise the omnibus. The appropriators are set to unveil the spending package on Monday.

The Senate will likely move first on the omnibus, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House won't return for votes until Wednesday evening. "The House is also expected to meet on Thursday, December 22, and will stay in session until the omnibus is completed,” he said.