Politics

Senate leaders finally reach agreement to begin voting on long-stalled three-bill spending package

Senate leaders have finally struck a bipartisan deal to begin voting on dozens of amendments and final passage of the upper chamber’s stalled three-bill spending package as soon as Wednesday.

“We are now moving forward after many weeks of delay,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor, noting that clinching the agreement to speed up votes on the so-called minibus has been a “long and arduous process.”

What’s next: Senators will vote on 40 amendments before final passage of the nearly $280 billion package, which combines the fiscal 2024 measures that would fund the USDA, FDA, Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two dozen of those amendments will be bundled together and voted on in groups, while 16 amendments will receive standalone votes.

“This is so important, especially right now, because over the last few weeks the American people have seen a lot of chaos and dysfunction in Congress,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray said in announcing the agreement on the floor.

“And it has come at a time when the world needs to see that U.S. leadership is still strong because it is not just the American people who are watching Congress right now — our allies are watching,” she said. “Our adversaries are watching. We need to show them that we are still able to work together and solve problems and respond effectively to the pressing challenges of this moment.”

Resolving the roadblocks: One of the last remaining holdups, an amendment from Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) that aims to stop the Department of Transportation from directing state and local transportation agencies from establishing goals for lowering carbon emissions, will receive a vote at a 60-vote threshold.

Another amendment that caused delays was from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and aims to restore gun rights to veterans who need fiduciary help with their VA benefits. It will receive a vote at a 50-vote threshold. Democrats had worried the legislation could potentially contribute to veteran suicides.

An amendment from Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) that seeks to ban federal mask mandates will also receive a vote at a simple majority threshold, potentially allowing it to pass.

Reality check: Top Senate appropriators like Murray and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) are determined to pass the spending package, in addition to their remaining nine fiscal 2024 funding bills, in order to lay down a marker in the broader funding standoff with House Republicans.

But Congress faces another government shutdown deadline on Nov. 17, likely necessitating another continuing resolution that extends current funding levels to a later date and staves off a federal funding lapse.

Whether the House and Senate can eventually reach a bipartisan, bicameral government funding deal for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 is seriously in doubt, especially as House Republicans remain leaderless in part due to major divisions over spending.

Senate leaders have finally struck a bipartisan deal to begin voting on dozens of amendments and final passage of the upper chamber’s stalled three-bill spending package as soon as Wednesday.
“We are now moving forward after many weeks of delay,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor, noting that clinching the agreement to speed up votes on the so-called minibus has been a “long and arduous process.”
What’s next: Senators will vote on 40 amendments before final passage of the nearly $280 billion package, which combines the fiscal 2024 measures that would fund the USDA, FDA, Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two dozen of those amendments will be bundled together and voted on in groups, while 16 amendments will receive standalone votes.
“This is so important, especially right now, because over the last few weeks the American people have seen a lot of chaos and dysfunction in Congress,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray said in announcing the agreement on the floor.
“And it has come at a time when the world needs to see that U.S. leadership is still strong because it is not just the American people who are watching Congress right now — our allies are watching,” she said. “Our adversaries are watching. We need to show them that we are still able to work together and solve problems and respond effectively to the pressing challenges of this moment.”
Resolving the roadblocks: One of the last remaining holdups, an amendment from Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) that aims to stop the Department of Transportation from directing state and local transportation agencies from establishing goals for lowering carbon emissions, will receive a vote at a 60-vote threshold.
Another amendment that caused delays was from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and aims to restore gun rights to veterans who need fiduciary help with their VA benefits. It will receive a vote at a 50-vote threshold. Democrats had worried the legislation could potentially contribute to veteran suicides.
An amendment from Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) that seeks to ban federal mask mandates will also receive a vote at a simple majority threshold, potentially allowing it to pass.
Reality check: Top Senate appropriators like Murray and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) are determined to pass the spending package, in addition to their remaining nine fiscal 2024 funding bills, in order to lay down a marker in the broader funding standoff with House Republicans.
But Congress faces another government shutdown deadline on Nov. 17, likely necessitating another continuing resolution that extends current funding levels to a later date and staves off a federal funding lapse.
Whether the House and Senate can eventually reach a bipartisan, bicameral government funding deal for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 is seriously in doubt, especially as House Republicans remain leaderless in part due to major divisions over spending.  

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