Congress passed a $400 billion budget deal in the wee hours of Friday morning after a partial government shutdown began at midnight. The House approved the legislation with a 240-186 vote hours after the Senate OK’d the package.
Just before the final House vote, Speaker Paul Ryan spoke on the floor and reiterated his commitment to “working together on an immigration measure we can make law” after a budget measure passes.
Protecting “Dreamers” and DACA recipients has been center stage in the ongoing budget debates in Congress. Democrats have been using funding legislation for leverage on their immigration concerns.
As the House voted on the procedural measure in the middle of the night, the mood in the House chamber was rather relaxed. Many members returned to the Capitol in the early morning hours nearly all still in their business attire and sat chatting with each other.
House GOP leaders Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise stood together chatting and occasionally reviewing pieces of paper but didn’t appear to be engaged in an urgent operation to whip votes suggesting confidence that the measure would pass.
The earlier Senate vote was the first big step in a rush to pick up the pieces of a budget and spending plan that had seemed on track hours earlier. But the government stumbled into the shutdown, the second in three weeks, at midnight after a single senator mounted a protest over the budget-busting deal and refused to give in.
Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the brakes on Senate leaders’ plan to drive the agreement quickly through the Senate, repeatedly blocking a Thursday vote and provoking colleagues’ frustration. The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact. Paul brushed off the pressure.
“I didn’t come up here to be part of somebody’s club. I didn’t come up here to be liked,” he said.
Once Paul time was up, the measure, backed by the Senate’s top leaders, sailed through the chamber by a 71-28 vote.
The situation was trickier in the House after liberal Democrats and tea party conservatives both swung into opposition.
The underlying bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies. Both sides pressed for $89 billion for disaster relief, extending a host of health care provisions, and extending a slew of smaller tax breaks.
It also would increase the government’s debt ceiling, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won’t occur before March 2019.
House leaders hustled to move before federal employees were due back at work, hoping to minimize the disruption. A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work. Military and essential workers would remain on the job regardless.