In the early hours of this morning, the Senate passed a budget deal to reopen the government after the initial deadline was missed. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke to his colleagues past the midnight hour meaning that the timing was missed and a partial shutdown of government occurred…the second this year.
Senator Paul used his speaking time as an opportunity to call for “less” spending instead of more; he pointed out that the “big secret” in Washington is that if Republicans ask for more military spending, the Democrats will ask for more welfare spending, with the result being that the government ends up spending more than it actually has:
“When Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. … The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.”
The agreement passed in a vote of 71-28 and was then handed on to the House. Surprisingly, the House then voted 240 to 186 which moves the measure over to the president.
What’s in the Deal?
The package includes increases in defense spending of $80 billion for 2018, and $85 billion for 2019, while non-defense spending will increase by $63 and $68 billion in the corresponding years. It is the fact that the majority of the spending is unaccounted for that has caused such divisive arguments.
It also includes new budgetary ceilings set for two years and an immediate “stopgap” funding that will enable the government to reopen.
Paul’s reasoning for delaying the vote was his exasperation that amendments would not be heard, something few in either party echoed. Minority Senate Leader, Chuck Schumer said:
“Frankly, there are lots of amendments on my side, and it’s hard to make an argument that if one gets an amendment, that everybody else won’t want an amendment, and then we’ll be here for a very long time.”
The Situation in the House
In the run-up to the vote, House members seemed confident that the measures would be passed without too much delay; they were aware that it would require a great deal of non-partisan voting to counteract those who have already stated their opposition.
During a radio interview early Thursday morning, Speaker Paul Ryan confidently asserted that he believed they had enough support. He said:
“I feel good. Part of it depends on the Democrats. This is a bipartisan bill. It’s going to need bipartisan support.”
Democrats had demanded that for the price of cooperation, Speaker Ryan agrees to a debate on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program…whether the president supports it or not. Ryan agreed to a debate but fell short of making it formal, much to the chagrin of Democrats. It will be noted by potential voters that this is the same ‘half-promise” that was made to end the previous shutdown.
The Democrats need to show that they can be an effectual force in standing up for their priorities; after the embarrassing caving-in of Chuck Schumer during the last shutdown, and the agreement given today, they are not presenting themselves as strong leaders.
This may have been their last major opportunity before the midterm campaigning starts to show that they are a government in waiting rather than just a single issue protest party.