Senate votes to reopen government, passes budget deal. Next stop: the House
The Senate voted early Friday to reopen the government and pass a $400 billion budget deal, handing the measure off to the House for a pre-dawn debate where success is not assured.
The vote was the first big step in a rush to pick up the pieces of a budget and spending plan that had seemed on track hours earlier. But the government stumbled into the shutdown, the second in three weeks, at midnight after a single senator mounted a protest over the budget-busting deal and refused to give in.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the brakes on Senate leaders’ plan to drive the agreement quickly through the Senate, repeatedly blocking a Thursday vote and provoking colleagues’ frustration. The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill needed to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact. Paul brushed off the pressure.
“I didn’t come up here to be part of somebody’s club. I didn’t come up here to be liked,” he said.
Once Paul time was up, the measure, backed by the Senate’s top leaders, sailed through the chamber by a 71-28 vote. House leaders signaled that chamber would immediately take it up, though the situation was trickier there after liberal Democrats and tea party conservatives both swung into opposition.
The underlying bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies. Both sides pressed for $89 billion for disaster relief, extending a host of health care provisions, and extending a slew of smaller tax breaks.
It also would increase the government’s debt cap, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won’t occur before March 2019.
House leaders hustled to move before federal employees were due back at work, hoping to minimize the disruption. A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work. Military and essential workers would remain on the job regardless.
The Trump administration signaled it expected the shutdown to be short, calling it a “lapse.”
As the clock hit midnight, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney immediately issued an order to close non-essential government operations.
Mulvaney told federal agencies they should execute their contingency plans and instructed federal employees to report to work Friday to “undertake orderly shutdown activities.”
At the White House, there appeared to be little sense of concern. Aides closed shop early Thursday night, with no comment on the display on the Hill. The president did not tweet. Vice President Mike Pence, in South Korea for the Winter Olympics, said the administration was “hopeful” the shutdown would not last long.
But frustrations were clear in both sides of the Capitol, where just hours earlier leaders had been optimistic that the budget deal was a sign they had left behind some of their chronic dysfunction. Senate Democrats sparked a three-day partial government shutdown last month by filibustering a spending bill, seeking relief for “Dreamer” immigrants who’ve lived in the country illegally since they were children.
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