For a government funding vote that lagged until fiscal New Year's Eve, this one was a snoozer.
Senators voted 78-20 to send to the House a measure that would keep the discretionary spigot open through Dec. 11, with the hope that Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill will be able to cut a budget deal with the White House. With the House Rules Committee expected to tee up the Senate amendment for floor consideration by day's end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will follow through on what might be his most persistent pledge — no shutdowns.
Looking to the immediate future, McConnell plans to force Democrats to vote on whether to filibuster taking up other individual appropriation bills ahead of any broader budget deal.
"Now that the CR appears on track, we can turn back to the last step in the Senate’s normal appropriations process: getting the funding bills passed on the floor," McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor. "Democrats have blocked them all year as part of some arbitrary strategy to force our nation to the brink. They certainly succeeded in that, but I think the American people are ready for our colleagues to finally get serious and get back to work."
The Kentucky Republican told reporters he hoped negotiations forced by the Democrats' blockade of the 12 regular appropriations bills over funding levels would yield a two-year budget agreement.
McConnell said Tuesday that he and outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, have spoken with President Barack Obama about finding a way forward. Sources said there have been at least two such calls. The first conversation reportedly came ahead of Obama's Sept. 17 meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, with another chat in the middle of last week.
Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., a senior appropriator such as McConnell, warned against a recurrence of a funding standoff leading up to the new expiration date for government funding that will be established by Wednesday's CR.
"I certainly will vote in the next few minutes to extend the operations of the government until Dec. 11, but if it's only for more speechifying and breast-beating by those who want to shut down the government to prove some political point, I have to tell ya, they're seriously mistaken," the Illinois Democrat said. "It's the wrong thing for America to shut down the government. It's the wrong thing for job creation to shut down the government. It's the wrong thing for our future when it comes to medical research, education and critical programs to shut down the government."
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