Congress

Senate inches toward Wednesday budget deal vote

McConnell laid out the process for a series of get-out-of town votes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Capitol on Tuesday for a Senate Republican’ policy lunch at the National Republican Senate Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders edged toward get-out-of-town votes on Wednesday, lining up a series of President Donald Trump’s nominees for confirmation either this week or shortly after the summer recess.

There was still the matter of voting on the two-year budget caps and debt limit suspension package, but clearing that measure for Trump’s signature appeared likely Wednesday. A notice from Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said consideration of the budget measure was “expected to occur” Wednesday. 

If all goes according to plan, the votes would allow for a fly-out by Wednesday evening so senators can jumpstart their August break.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the process for a dozen votes to limit debate on nominees Tuesday night, as well as expected votes Wednesday, though it wasn’t clear all of the pending nominees would be confirmed before September.

McConnell said he was still discussing the timing of final votes on the budget bill with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. But as currently structured, the tentative deal would unfold first with an amendment from Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to set lower spending caps for the next decade, with a 60-vote threshold. The amendment is unlikely to be adopted.

Then senators would then vote on cloture on the bill, followed by final passage without having to wait the usual 30 hours. A budget point of order vote was also likely, but senators expressed optimism final passage would occur Wednesday.

“I think it’s pretty well set” for Wednesday, West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito said, adding that she thinks the majority of Republicans will vote for the budget and debt limit package.

The bipartisan budget compromise would suspend the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021, and raise spending caps by $324 billion over the next two fiscal years above the austere cap levels imposed under a 2011 deficit reduction law. 

Senate passage and Trump’s expected signature on the bill would allow the fiscal 2020 appropriations process to move forward in that chamber, and remove the threat of default on U.S. financial obligations later by early September.

Democrats and Republicans appeared at odds earlier Tuesday as McConnell asserted that 21 of Trump’s nominees, all but two of them judges, needed to be confirmed before leaving for the August recess. Schumer said the budget vote should take precedence, as Democrats claimed Republicans were seeking to first score political points. 

“I think that the Republican leader wants to keep some of his people around so he can get some more political judges,” Senate Appropriations ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said earlier Tuesday evening.

The timing of the agreement means it’s possible fewer than 21 nominees might be confirmed before senators leave town, with the remainder held over until September.

Paul M. Krawzak, David Lerman and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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