Congress vote on U.S. government funding likely taking place in the wee hours

With a midnight deadline for a government shutdown having passed, both Republicans and Democrats grappled with internal party divisions as they tried to push through a massive budget deal.

Rand Paul among fiscal conservatives raising objections; some Democrats upset over immigration

In this image from video from Senate Television, Rand Paul speaks on the floor of the Senate. The Kentucky Republican said he was making a point about government spending. (Senate TV via AP)

With a midnight deadline for a government shutdown having passed, both Republicans and Democrats grappled with internal party divisions as they tried to push through a massive budget deal.

Frustrations mounted — and the risk of a shutdown increased — as Republican Senator Rand Paul held up voting on the broad measure in hopes of obtaining recorded votes on reversing spending increases.

"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."

The Kentucky Republican told The Associated Press he expects the Senate to vote on the budget bill after 1 a.m. Friday — and possibly several hours after a midnight deadline to avert a second government shutdown in three weeks.
He said senators will likely pass the bill, adding: "They'll be tired and ornery, but it's their own fault."
The Trump administration, which favoured approval of the broad budget measure, was preparing for a "lapse" in appropriations, an official with the Office of Management and Budget said, commenting only on condition of anonymity. That suggested a short shutdown, if any, less than a month after the three-day interruption last month.

They'll be tired and ornery, but it's their own fault.- Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, on making colleagues vote late on budget

Agencies brought out now-familiar contingency plans. The partial shutdown would essentially force half the federal workforce to stay home, freeze some operations and close some parks and outposts. Services deemed essential would continue, including Social Security payments, the air traffic control system and law enforcement.

The plan to keep the government operating and increase spending over the next two years faces resistance from the right wing of the Republican Party that mainly wants to shrink government. At the same time, many liberals want to withhold their support as leverage to win concessions on immigration policy.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan backs the agreement. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Senate leaders reached a rare bipartisan deal Wednesday to raise spending on military and domestic programs by almost $300 billion over the next two years.

The Senate agreement would allow for $165 billion in extra defence spending and $131 billion more for non-military programs, including health, infrastructure, disaster relief and efforts to tackle an opioid crisis in the country.

'Not compassionate to bankrupt America'

It would also stave off a government shutdown before a midnight Thursday night deadline for a new short-term spending bill, and also extend the federal government's debt ceiling until March 2019. That would put off for more than a year the risk of a debt default by the United States. Failure to agree on spending led to a partial three-day shutdown of government agencies last month. 

The agreement, backed by President Donald Trump and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, disappointed conservative House Republicans and outside groups. Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, fresh off a marathon speech from the floor the previous day, speaks to the media Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi has expressed her opposition, but has conceded it may not prevent the bill from being passed. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Ryan said Thursday he believed there would be enough votes in the House to pass the budget.

"I think we will," Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt. "I feel good. Part of it depends on the Democrats. This is a bipartisan bill. It's going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support. I feel very good about Republicans. Our members who are focused on the military are very happy where we landed on that." 

But Warren Davidson, a Republican representative, was less enthusiastic.

"It's not like Republicans aren't concerned about disaster relief, or Republicans aren't concerned about funding community health centres or dealing with the opioid crisis," he said.

"But when you add them all up, it adds to an awful lot of spending... It's not compassionate to bankrupt America."

Looking for good, not perfect

Opposition also came from liberal Democrats, who opposed the deal because it does not include an agreement to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers, the name given to young people brought illegally to the United States as children.

A number of lawmakers who supported the bill acknowledged the deal was not perfect. "It's not pretty," Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said on CNN.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester said he hoped House Democrats would back the measure.

"We don't want the perfect to get in the road of the good," he told the cable network. 

The Senate agreement would allow for $165 billion in extra defence spending and $131 billion more for non-military programs, including health, infrastructure, disaster relief and efforts to tackle an opioid crisis in the country. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News the agreement provides long-term certainty in the budget and funding for Trump priorities including infrastructure and military funding.

Meanwhile, Ryan has vowed that once Congress reaches a budget deal, it will then take up the plight of Dreamers who face deportation.

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, herself a key architect of the budget plan, announced her opposition Wednesday morning and mounted a remarkable daylong speech on the House floor, trying to force Republican leaders in the House to promise a later vote on legislation to protect the younger immigrants.

Ryan called Pelosi's marathon speech "pretty darn impressive."

But at a late afternoon meeting on Thursday, Pelosi made it plain that she wasn't pressuring fellow Democrats to kill the bill because it includes money for Democratic priorities.