U.S. government shutdown looms as Senate short of votes for spending bill

U.S. government shutdown looms as Senate short of votes for spending bill
Sat Jan 20, 2018 08:26:52

A House-passed stopgap bill that would avoid a government shutdown appeared to fizzle out in the Senate late Friday night, leaving Congress fewer than two hours to find a solution before a midnight deadline.

(CNBC) -- A House-passed stopgap bill that would avoid a government shutdown appeared to fizzle out in the Senate late Friday night, leaving Congress fewer than two hours to find a solution before a midnight deadline.

The measure was set to fail in a procedural vote that was still open in the Senate at 11 p.m. ET. Five Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — had backed it, though their votes could change. Four Republicans — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah — opposed it pending the vote becoming final.

As nearly all Democrats and some Republicans opposed the measure that failed to work its way through Congress on Friday, lawmakers will have to craft a new plan quickly or see government funding lapse, at least temporarily. The proposal that failed in the Senate would have funded the government through Feb. 16 and reauthorized the popular Children's Health Insurance Program for six years.

As the vote remained open, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yet to vote, several bipartisan senators appeared to confer about a way forward. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer then walked off the Senate floor together.

The Senate needs to garner 60 votes for a spending bill. With 50 Republicans present, the majority GOP needed to win support from 10 or more Democrats, many of whom had threatened to oppose a short-term spending plan if they could not also pass a bill shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation. (Sen. John McCain is away from Washington, receiving treatment for cancer.)

The bill's apparent failure in the Senate significantly increases the chances of a government shutdown and leaves a possible path forward unclear.

Many Democrats and some Republicans announced they would vote against a short-term deal, criticizing the continued use of stopgap bills rather than funding the government through more long-term, stable mechanisms. The minority party has also shown frustration about progress on talks toward a bipartisan immigration bill, which Democrats wanted to pass this week to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The parties also remain divided over long-term defense and non-defense spending levels

Schumer has argued for a bill that extended funding only for a few days, rather than a month, to give lawmakers more time to hash out a long-term plan. He met with President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon, and though he said their talks yielded "some progress," they did not reach a deal to keep the government open.

On Thursday night, majority House Republican leaders had to keep nearly all of their members in line in order to approve the short-term spending legislation by a 230 to 197 margin. With Democrats putting up a nearly unified front against the measure, GOP lawmakers cleared a bill that would fund the government for about a month.

Eleven Republicans opposed the legislation, while six Democrats supported it.

Trump had backed the short-term funding plan. Republicans this week put the burden on Senate Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.

"Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders," Trump contended in a tweet Friday morning. "Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!"

House Speaker Paul Ryan used the line of attack after the House passed the bill on Thursday night.

"Senator Schumer, do not shut down the federal government," the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference.

The Democrats facing the most political peril in the vote are those who face re-election this year in states Trump won, including McCaskill, Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly.

If a shutdown occurs, McConnell intends to keep the Senate in session over the weekend and force those Democrats to face a series of difficult votes, according to Politico and NBC News.

(Photo: CNBC)

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