WASHINGTON — Congress has failed to pass a government funding bill before a midnight deadline, shutting down non-essential government services for at least the remainder of the night until the Senate votes and the House follows suit.
An objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., late Thursday single-handedly blocked the Senate from voting on a budget agreement by midnight.
Watch Live: Senate debates spending deal
Paul raised objections because of the large price tag of the two-year spending deal, nearly $400 billion over the next two years. The agreement is an attempt to end the repeated drama of short-term funding bills that have occupied Congress for much of the past five months. But it, too, is providing drama until the end.
“I can’t, in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. But really who’s to blame? Both parties,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “We have a 700-page bill that no one has read that was printed at midnight. No one will read this bill, nothing will be reformed, the waste will continue and government will keep taking your money irresponsibly and adding to a $20 trillion debt.”
Paul’s objections won’t cause a prolonged government shutdown. His use of Senate procedure is simply delaying the inevitable: Senate passage of the long-term spending deal.
Still, the Office of Management and Budget is “currently preparing for a lapse in appropriations.”
“As we stated earlier today, we support the Bipartisan Budget Act and urge Congress to send it to the President’s desk without delay,” an OMB official said.
There is also struggle in the House, where Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting at which they discussed how they’d vote. Most members emerged undecided, mostly because, they say, they haven’t received a strong enough guarantee on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, or DACA.
“There’s a considerable irony here that there’s so many good things in the bill and yet there’s an outstanding issue that’s very stubborn,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.
The 11th-hour complications revolve around the measure that was hammered out between the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. If it passes, the two-year spending deal would complete months of haggling on a variety of issues that have resulted in five incremental spending bills and a three-day government shutdown.
Congress voting today on budget deal to avoid shutdown
The spending deal would increase domestic spending by $131 billion and defense spending by $165 billion over the next two years, provide nearly $90 billion in disaster aid and suspend the debt limit for one year — until well after the midterm elections.
What the measure doesn’t address is DACA. The Senate will take up the issue next week.
The issue’s absence is reason for Democrats in the House, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, to oppose the measure. She spoke for more than eight hours on the House floor Wednesday in support of so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children.
But notably, and perhaps a good sign for the prospects of the legislation, Pelosi said she would not implore her caucus to vote against it.
“I am just telling people why I am voting the way I am voting,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning.
During the meeting Thursday night, Pelosi made a strong case to vote against the bill, lawmakers who attended the meeting said. But proponents, including those from states affected by natural disasters in the past year, spoke in favor of the bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wix., insisted that he will bring up DACA legislation.
“To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill: Do not,” Ryan said at a news conference Thursday. “We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign. We must pass this budget agreement first, though, so that we can get onto that. So please know that we are committed to getting this done.”
But President Donald Trump’s support for a bill is a litmus test Democrats can’t accept.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said it’s time for Democrats to have “courage.”
“Anyone who votes for the Senate budget deal is colluding with this President and this Administration to deport Dreamers. It is as simple as that,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
We don’t have bad intentions: GOP rep. on budget
Still, a number of House Democrats are expected to vote for it, including Tim Ryan of Ohio, who called the bill just “OK.”
“It clearly doesn’t have everything in it, but it addresses a lot of the challenges we have, and I feel like we’ve got to start solving problems, and this is one of the biggest ones,” Ryan told World News.
Conservative Republicans are also expressing hesitancy because of the major increases to domestic spending.
Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he’s “leaning no.”
“The more we read the text, the more surprises for green energy and some of those things that we’re adamantly against,” he said.
Republicans are praising the proposed increase in military spending, while Democrats are hailing an increase in domestic spending, a tonic that might be enough, along with the desire to avoid a second government shutdown in one month, to garner enough votes. But it’s not an easy vote for many.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said he’s undecided.
“I think the military spending is incredibly important — probably a once-in-a-lifetime increase from my perspective — but the pay-fors are challenging,” Scott said, referring to about $100 billion of revenue-raising mechanisms.
One of those offsets would be to sell off 100 million barrels of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from 2022 to 2027, which some House conservatives say should be saved for an emergency.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he still has concerns about the deficit. “Anybody in the Milky Way concerned about the deficit has to be worried about this bill,” he told reporters.
The addition of disaster relief brought Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who often votes against spending bills, on board.
“This latest disaster relief bill is the next step in our State’s road to recovery,” Cruz said in a statement. “And I am gratified that (Sen.) John Cornyn (R-Texas) and I have been able to build upon and improve the bill that was sent to us by the House of Representatives to give the state of Texas the resources it desperately needs.”