Senators scramble to wrap $1.7T spending bill in time for holidays

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Senators scramble to wrap $1.7T spending bill in time for holidays

Without a deal to vote on the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to keep senators in session for days if that’s what it takes to pass it.

Lawmakers huddle on Capitol Hill ahead of spending deal

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), left, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Capitol on Tuesday. | Francis Chung/POLITICO


12/21/2022 03:10 PM EST

Updated: 12/21/2022 08:16 PM EST

The Senate was struggling Wednesday night to clinch an agreement that would allow for votes ona colossal $1.7 trillion government funding package, with lawmakers eager to avoid a potentially paralyzing storm ahead of the holidays.

The year-end spending bill is the final item on the Senate’s to-do list before they leave Washington through late January, fueling bipartisan hope in the chamber that they could clear the legislation on Wednesday night by vaulting over a long line of procedural hurdles. But a politically tricky, long-simmering border fight has emerged as a major sticking point, and the time crunch gives leverage to any one senator to make demands.

After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor to acknowledge the lack of a deal to vote on the bill, vowing to keep senators in session for days if that’s what it takes to pass it. The threat could test GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to back a temporary funding patch into early next year if the upper chamber doesn’t clear the massive spending package by Thursday.

“We aren’t there yet, we’re making progress,” Schumer said, noting that the bill would deliver about $45 billion to Ukraine ahead of Zelenskyy’s joint address to Congress.

At least a dozen amendments are under discussion, guaranteeing a late night that could stretch into the early hours of Thursday if senators manage to reach a time agreement.

As of Wednesday night, the biggest hangup appeared to be a proposed amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that ties funding for the Office of the Executive Secretary at Department of Homeland Security to the Biden administration keeping Title 42, or Trump-era border restrictions tied to the pandemic.

Democrats had offered to give Lee a vote on his amendment at a 60-vote threshold. But senators and aides said they continue to haggle over a push by Lee and other Republicans to lower the threshold to 51 votes.

Because several Senate Democrats support keeping Title 42 in place, Lee’s amendment could get added into the bill at the lower threshold. That would cause headaches not only for the bill in the Senate, but across the Capitol in the House, where it could cause a revolt among progressives. Senate Democrats had been expected to offer a competing proposal to offer their members political cover for voting against Lee, but as of Wednesday night it hadn’t materialized.

“It sounds to me like Title 42 might pass,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) about Lee’s amendment if it is allowed to get a vote at a simple majority.

The haggling over Lee’s amendment follows a day full of behind-the-scenes conversations as Senate leaders hoped to nail down an agreement much earlier, but ran into roadblocks.

“We need a Festivus miracle,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said on Wednesday afterno

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