Senators made another quick exit from the Capitol on Tuesday.
The chamber was always going to be closed for business Wednesday, in observance of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Tuesday. But getting the next two-bill spending package done and ready for the House next week could easily move up the departure.
There’s also now no reason for members of the Judiciary Committee to stay around for the executive business meeting that had been planned to include a Thursday afternoon vote to send the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the floor.
Mid-afternoon Tuesday, the Senate formally announced that there would be no further votes for the week. The next floor votes are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. next Monday.
The Judiciary panel is now scheduled to continue the Kavanaugh hearings next Monday, Sept. 24, with an open session that could get more attention than just about any other.
Both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh from their time in high school, have both been invited to testify.
Democrats have been beyond critical of Chairman Charles E. Grassley’s stated intention to only call the two witnesses. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer made an argument for calling more witnesses during a floor speech, and Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein did likewise in a statement.
“What about other witnesses like Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge? What about individuals who were previously told about this incident? What about experts who can speak to the effects of this kind of trauma on a victim? This is another attempt by Republicans to rush this nomination and not fully vet Judge Kavanaugh,” the California Democrat said.
Regardless of what happens, that hearing will consume the Senate’s attention on the same day Republicans might have preferred to get the ball rolling toward a floor vote ahead of the opening of the new Supreme Court term in October.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a bipartisan agreement to finish up the chamber’s work on what should be the largest spending package for the new fiscal year Tuesday afternoon.
Ahead of the weekly caucus meetings, the Senate is on track to easily adopt a fiscal 2019 spending package that, if agreed upon by the House and signed into law by President Donald Trump, would mean Congress will have funded the majority of discretionary spending for the next year and avoided a shutdown.
The $855 billion conference report combines the two biggest of the 12 annual spending bills — Defense and Labor-HHS-Education — and pairs them with a continuing resolution for anything not otherwise funded ahead of Oct. 1. The stopgap portion would run through Dec. 7, giving lawmakers breathing space into the postelection lame-duck session.
“The package we’re voting on today will account for over half of federal discretionary spending for next year,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “Critically, after subjecting America’s all-volunteer armed forces to years of belt-tightening, this legislation will build on our recent progress in rebuilding the readiness of our military and investing more in the men and women who wear the uniform.”
A three-bill spending package already cleared. (That one addressed Energy, Army Corps of Engineers water projects, military construction-VA and the internal budget of the legislative branch.) A four-bill package is still being considered, but its prospects for clearing before the election look somewhat less likely.
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