Senators Scramble to Finish $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill

Senators Scramble to Finish $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill

Michael A. McCoy/Pool via REUTERS

The Senate is reportedly running into some obstacles as it looks to pass the $1.66 trillion omnibus spending package as soon as tonight. Current federal funding expires at midnight Friday, and a partial government shutdown would ensue if a new spending bill isn’t approved in time.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday morning that he hoped the package could be approved quickly after a bipartisan procedural vote advanced it Tuesday night by a 70-25 margin.

But as of Wednesday evening, lawmakers were still negotiating amendment votes — votes that may be needed to get all 100 senators to consent to a time agreement speeding consideration of the bill. “Bipartisan hopes of a speedy exit hinge on whether lawmakers can vault over a long line of procedural hurdles,” Politico noted.

“I’m frustrated. Very frustrated,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told Punchbowl News.

“We need a Festivus miracle,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said, per Politico. “We’ve got plenty of airing of grievances right now.”

Pressure from House conservatives: Twenty-one Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to advance the spending package, rebuffing pressure from House Republicans opposed to the legislation. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday reportedly joined a closed-door gathering of Senate Republicans to urge them to vote against the legislation.

McCarthy, facing resistance from some of his own members as he seeks to become the next speaker of the House, has pushed for the spending bill to be delayed until Republicans take control of the House and can exert leverage over the package. He threatened this week to retaliate against Senate Republicans who support the bill by opposing their legislation, backing an idea put forth by some hard-liners in his caucus. “When I’m Speaker, their bills will be dead on arrival in the House if this nearly $2T monstrosity is allowed to move forward over our objections and the will of the American people,” he tweeted.

In all, 31 conservative House members have now pledged to “do everything in our power to thwart even the smallest legislative and policy efforts” of Republican senators who vote for the omnibus.

Some in the Senate have suggested that they are doing their House GOP counterparts a favor by relieving them of the pressure to legislate like grown-ups (we’re paraphrasing). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), meanwhile, has argued that the compromise package isn’t perfect but contains some valuable Republican wins, pointing to increases for defense that outpace those for non-defense spending.

“If Senate Republicans control the chamber, we would have handled the appropriations process entirely differently from top to bottom,” McConnell said. “But, given the reality of where we stand today, senators have two options this week, just two: Give our armed forces the resources and the certainty that they need or we will deny it to them.”

In addition, Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy' Wednesday visit to Washington, D.C., is likely to ramp up pressure on those Republicans who are opposed to providing more aid to Ukraine — though some in the GOP are reportedly skipping Zelenskyy’s evening speech to Congress. “I’m against anymore funding for Ukraine and his words will not change my mind,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), a Freedom Caucus member, told Politico.

The bottom line: The omnibus has again highlighted a schism within the GOP. “What do GOP fiscal hawks hate more, a mammoth spending bill or the threat of canceling their holiday flights because of a massive storm? The Senate might soon find out,” Politico said. Don’t bet against the omnibus passing in time.