U.S. Senate Votes to Fund Government; House Set to Vote

The U.S. Senate has voted to reopen the federal government. The lawmakers voted 71 to 28 early Friday to renew the government’s funding.

The House of Representatives must now agree to the deal. House politicians are expected to vote Friday before dawn.

If the House passes the bill, the legislation will go to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The U.S. government was shut down after midnight Friday when Congress missed a deadline to renew the federal government’s funding. The shutdown Friday marks the second partial federal shutdown in less than a month.

A single Republican senator late Thursday held up a bipartisan bill to keep the U.S. government open hours before federal funds expired.

Rand Paul of Kentucky objected to the Senate proceeding to vote on a two-year budget deal that would boost military and domestic spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, saying it would explode America’s rising federal deficit and add to the nation’s more than $20 trillion national debt.

“I can’t, in all good honesty, in all good faith just look the other way,” Paul said in a fiery and lengthy floor speech that consumed dwindling time that Congress had to act to avert a halt of non-essential federal operations. “We have a 700-page bill that no one has read that was printed at midnight. … Nothing will be reformed, the waste will continue.”

Paul’s objection drew an angry response from a fellow Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who argued America’s military desperately needs additional funds after years of budget caps that constrained both the Pentagon and domestic programs.

“Debt and deficits are no excuse to leave the war fighter hanging,” Graham said. “Whatever it is to keep our military going, I’ll do it.”

​Senate rules

Under Senate rules, any member can speak for as long as he or she desires, unless three-fifths of the body votes to end debate. Any senator also can object to a vote, causing lengthy procedural delays.

Paul’s action also threw into chaos a carefully choreographed timetable for how the day’s legislative business was to be conducted, with swift Senate and House votes so that the budget deal could be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature with time to spare before midnight in Washington, when federal spending authority ended absent an extension.

​Bipartisan support for bill

Negotiated between the Senate’s Republican and Democratic leaders, the funding bill appeared to have ample bipartisan support for passage in both houses of Congress.

“This agreement ensures that our armed forces will finally have the resources they need,” Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said. “In addition, the funding bill will provide support for our veterans, those who have worn the uniform as well as their families, and it will clear the way for new investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”

“It’s a good deal,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “And it’s a strong signal that we can break the gridlock that has overwhelmed this body and work together for the good of the country.”

“We do support the two-year spending bill,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters at the daily briefing. “It lifts the caps on defense spending, which is something the secretary of defense and the president’s generals have told him they need to ensure that we rebuild our military and protect our national security.”

Opposition from all sides

The accord drew opposition from opposite extremes of Congress’ ideological spectrum, but not in sufficient numbers to threaten passage. Some conservative Republicans blasted the added spending as a surrender to fiscal insanity.

Some progressive Democrats, meanwhile, protested the agreement’s omission of any measure to end the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.

“They live and work here. They share our nation with us. Right now, we are being called upon to protect them from deportation and we must answer that call,” Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said. “Vote against this budget.”

Partial shutdown in January

Democrats blocked a stopgap spending bill in January, triggering a three-day partial federal government shutdown, in part to protest Congress’ inaction on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama administration program that Trump ended last year and is now set to expire March 5.

Bipartisan negotiations have yet to reach a deal on an overhaul of America’s immigration. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly promised to start Senate floor debate on immigration reform, including a fix for DACA recipients, after spending issues are resolved.

House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a similar assurance on Thursday, saying, “To anyone who doubts my commitment to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign.”

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