Senate Must Act By Wednesday to Avoid Government Shutdown
Federal agencies are not out of the woods just yet.
This story has been updated.
After tumultuous debate and last-minute rallying from the White House, the House late Thursday narrowly passed a spending bill to fund most of federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2015.
The House, followed by the Senate with limited time to spare before a government shutdown would have begun, also passed a two-day, short-term spending bill to fund federal agencies at their fiscal 2014 levels through Saturday. This allowed the Senate more time to debate and vote on the larger “CRomnibus” bill. The chamber then extended that time-frame even more, passing another measure Friday afternoon to give the Senate until Wednesday.
With the House already recessed and not expected back until January, the Senate must pass the legislation or the government will once again be on shutdown alert.
While the Senate is expected to pass the measure, it is far from a done deal. Many senators have expressed their opposition to the bill, and there is no room for tinkering with the language now that House members have fled Washington for their home districts. Political prognosticators also said the CRomnibus was a sure thing to pass in the House, though it only advanced from the procedural stage by one vote and secured final passage only after significant delays and hand wringing.
Liberal senators such as Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have voiced opposition to the measure for various policies riders it includes. Conservatives such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., are likely “no” votes as the measure does not block funding for President Obama’s executive immigration action.
Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and David Vitter, R-La., penned a letter saying they opposed a controversial provision softening a regulation created in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, but have not said if they would vote against the bill.
Still, the CRomnibus has the support of Senate leaders in both parties, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., was the key Democratic negotiator throughout the process of crafting the spending bill.
Mikulski took to the Senate floor late Thursday to express the need to move forward with the full-year appropriations so “there would be no government shutdown and no government on autopilot.”
While federal agencies collectively would benefit from the bill’s passage as it would stave off the cataclysmic disruption of a shutdown, some agencies make out better than others. The White House has already told agencies to prepare for a possible lapse in appropriations.
The Senate has limited time to act, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he is hoping for minimal disruption from lawmakers so the bill can proceed quickly. In addition to the spending bill, the Senate is looking to confirm presidential nominees, approve the annual defense authorization bill and extend a series of tax breaks -- including one for mass transit commuters -- before it adjourns for the year.
Senate Republicans on Friday afternoon were optimistic the chamber could move on the spending bill quickly.