Senate action stalled hours before shutdown deadline
The U.S. Senate has recessed until Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET without approving a budget deal, which means a short government shutdown is assured. A last-minute maneuver by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delayed consideration of a bipartisan budget package to keep the government open past midnight.
While the government's authority to spend some money would expire at midnight, there weren't likely to be many clear immediate effects. Essential personnel would remain on the job regardless, and it appeared possible — if not likely — that the measure could pass both the Senate and House before most federal employees were due to report for work.
If the measure passes in the wee hours of the morning, the government would open in the morning on schedule, said John Czwartacki, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, the agency responsible for coordinating any shutdown.
The stalemate began when Paul repeatedly objected to a quick vote on the deal struck by his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Paul said he was asking for a recorded vote on reversing the bill's spending increases. That effort could delay a final Senate vote until 1 a.m. Friday, past the deadline for keeping the government open.
"I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama's trillion-dollar deficits," the Kentucky senator said. "Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can't in all honesty look the other way."
At one point, an exasperated Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., took to the Senate floor to lambaste Paul for what Tillis described as "theater."
"We can right now provide certainty to people who expect government to be open or we can play this game until 1 a.m.," said Tillis, who reminded Paul that "you have to convince 51 or 60 senators that your idea is good enough to support."
"You can make a point all you want, but points are forgotten," Tillis added. "There aren't a whole of history books about great points in the U.S. Senate."
Shortly after 10 p.m., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, made six separate unanimous consent requests to hold a vote on the budget. Each time, Paul objected.
"I don't know why we're burning time here," Cornyn said before accusing Paul of "effectively shutting down the government … for no real reason."
"It makes no sense to me," Cornyn added. "It will not accomplish anything."
As Paul stood firm, the Trump administration announced it was preparing for a "lapse" in appropriations, suggesting that officials expected a short shutdown.
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The massive budget deal, which includes a stopgap temporary measure to prevent a government shutdown, includes $300 billion for the military. The agreement also adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government's borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions.
The legislation is expected to pass the Senate, but still faces uncertainty in the House, where liberals, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are protesting a lack of protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and the conservative House Freedom Caucus is lining up against provisions ending spending caps.
"This should pass the House," Fox News' Chad Pergram said. "They need a blend of about 150 Republicans and 70 Democrats, but sources tell Fox News it is always hard to depend on the other side."
Late Thursday, House GOP leaders advised members to prepare for votes "very roughly between" 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday.
President Trump has been urging Republicans and Democrats to support the Senate bill, tweeting that lawmakers must “must support our troops and support this bill.”
But the bill still faces opposition from members of both parties.
Democrats like Pelosi are pushing for the bill to include provisions for “Dreamers” — immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. Such protections are about to expire in early March, a result of President Trump ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he also won’t support the bill and predicted other Democrats would also vote no.
“So today, they are going to bring over from the Senate a proposal, they are going to lift the caps and they're going to say, let's vote on our budget. Well, I say to everybody — don't collude with this administration,” Gutierrez said. “Vote against the budget.”
The House Freedom Caucus, the chamber’s fiscally conservative wing, also opposes the bill out of concerns that it would lead to more government spending.
“The … caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years,” the roughly 30-member group said Wednesday. “We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do.”
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave his full support to the bill to try to rally others in chamber to also vote yes — saying the military is at risk without the money, while acknowledging the deal includes partisan compromises and isn’t perfect.
“This is a bipartisan bill,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “On the net, this is a very good solution.”
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.
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