Republicans in Congress are scrambling to get funding bills passed ahead of midterm elections, and that apparently means dispensing with the usual months of shutdown threats and grandstanding and actually passing a funding bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Senate is racing to avoid the third government shutdown of the year ahead of a looming end-of-the-month deadline.
Senators on Tuesday voted 93-7 to pass a sweeping $854 billion spending bill that includes funding for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor and Education, which make up the lion’s share of total government spending.
Six Republicans, Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.), joined Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in voting against the bill, which also includes a short-term stopgap bill to fund the rest of the government through Dec. 7 and prevent a shutdown that would start Oct. 1.
Passage of the sweeping package of defense and domestic spending marks a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who has dedicated weeks of floor time to government funding and avoiding another catch-all omnibus bill less than two months before the midterm election, where control of Congress hangs in the balance.
It’s the first time the Senate has approved funding for Labor, HHS or Education outside an omnibus bill since 2007, though even then the package was not completed on time. The bills normally get bogged down by fights over partisan riders, but Senate negotiators agreed early on to avoid attaching them to their legislation and were able to keep them out of the final House-Senate version of the minibus.
“These milestones may sound like inside baseball, but what they signify is a Senate that is getting its appropriations process back on track; a Senate that is attending to vital priorities for our country,” McConnell said.
Despite containing only two appropriations bills, the package represents roughly two-thirds of Congress’s 2019 spending. Of the $854 billion, $785 billion fell under agreed-upon budget caps, and the rest came from off-budget funds such as Overseas Contingency Operations.
It includes provisions for military pay raises, defense research, increases for Pell grants and the National Institute of Health, and workforce development training, among others.
The House is out this week but expected to take up the funding legislation next week, ahead of the September 30th deadline to keep the government funded.
Of course all this mess does is punt the countdown well into the holiday lame duck session, but by then it won't be Paul Ryan's problem anymore...and it may not be Mitch McConnell's problem either.
Goes to show you just how terrified Republicans are right now.