September 28, 2015, 06:21 pm
By Jordain Carney
A short-term bill to fund the government through Dec. 11 overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, just days before the deadline to avoid a shutdown.
Senators voted 77-19 to end debate on the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government. The move paves the way for final passage before the Oct. 1 deadline.
Nineteen Republican senators — including presidential candidates Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — voted against moving forward, citing concerns about funding for Planned Parenthood and the overall spending levels it contains.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said that while he supports funding the government, “we can no longer ignore the coming fiscal crisis or President Obama’s continued executive overreach.”
“Therefore, I will not support continuing resolutions or debt limit increases unless the Senate takes meaningful action to address these challenges,” he said.
The outcome of Monday’s vote was widely expected after nearly every Democrat and eight Republicans blocked the Senate last week from moving forward with a short-term bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
Conservatives have fought to cut off federal funding for the organization by using the spending bill as leverage.
But that push has divided Senate Republicans, with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who is running for reelection in a blue-leaning state, slamming her colleagues for pushing the measure during a fiery floor speech late last week.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appealed to his Republican colleagues ahead of Monday’s vote, reminding them that if they don’t back the bill, then the government would likely shut down as of Thursday.
“It doesn’t represent my first, second, third or 23rd choice when it comes to funding the government,” he said from the Senate floor. “But, it will keep the government open through the fall and funded at the bipartisan level already agreed to by both parties as we work on the way forward.”
The White House also announced its support for the short-term bill ahead of Monday’s vote, saying that it gives lawmakers a “short-term bridge” to pass a longer budget.
“The administration looks forward to working with the Congress on FY 2016 appropriations legislation for the full year that reverses sequestration, preserves funding for critical national priorities, protects national security, and makes investments to maintain economic growth and job creation for years to come,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
With only days before the deadline, McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) traded blame Monday for the failure to act well ahead of the deadline.
McConnell said Democrats are trying to force “unnecessary crises” by blocking the Senate from taking up spending bills; Reid said the scramble to pass legislation is “another Republican-manufactured showdown.”
An attempt by Sen. Rob Portman to offer an amendment was blocked by his Republican colleagues. The Ohio Republican wanted to include an amendment that would create automatic short-term funding bills based on the previous years spending levels if Congress didn’t pass legislation by the Oct. 1 deadline.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said that Portman’s amendment would say that “not only is the power of the Senate suspended and put on hold, but the obligations of the committee system are put under threat.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) added that Portman’s proposal “does not serve the best interest of this country.”
With a short-term spending bill expected to pass the Senate and then the House, Democrats are renewing their push to get Republicans to negotiate a longer bill that would roll back congressionally mandated budget caps on defense and non-defense spending.
“It’s time for those bipartisan budget negotiations. It’s beyond time. Now is the time for Congress to act responsibly,” Durbin said.