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Senate conservatives fuming over $1.3 trillion funding bill
Conservative senators are fuming over a mammoth government funding bill, raising questions about how soon the chamber will be able to vote on the measure.
The $1.3 trillion legislation passed the House early Thursday afternoon, sending it to the Senate less than 36 hours before funding is set to expire.
GOP leadership wants to pass the bill on Thursday, allowing lawmakers to leave as scheduled for a two-week recess.
But key holdouts are remaining mum on whether or not they'll allow for a quick vote.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the senator viewed as most likely to force a brief partial closure, has yet to announce his plans despite constant peppering by reporters.
"Well, here it is, all 2,232 budget-busting pages. The House already started votes on it. The Senate is expected to soon. No one has read it. Congress is broken," Paul tweeted on Thursday, along with a photo of himself looking unamused as he held the omnibus.
Paul antagonized his colleagues last month when he forced a brief, hours-long shutdown after leadership refused to give him a vote on an amendment to cut government spending. But Paul isn't the only senator playing coy about their intentions. GOP Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters that he hasn't made a decision about if he would slowly walk the legislation. "I don't know yet. I don't even know what's in the thing" he said, adding that the legislative process "sucks." "This is a great Dane-sized whiz down the leg of every taxpayer," he said. The conservative backlash isn't expected to block the Senate from ultimately passing the bill. But it could kick the Senate's debate into Friday or even force a brief lapse in government funding. Under Senate rules, the earliest the Senate could take an initial vote on the omnibus bill is early Saturday, roughly an hour after the midnight deadline. If they want to speed up the votes they'll need the consent of every senator. GOP leadership is hoping they'll be able to set up a vote for Thursday.
"If I had to guess I would guess it would be before we leave today, though I don't know what that means. ... It could be two in the morning; it could be 8 p.m.," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.
But Blunt added he didn't know if Paul would let them speed up the votes, adding "hopefully he had time to make the point he wanted to make three weeks ago."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) added that the Senate could vote on Thursday but noted any senator could block that.
Fiscal hawks have balked over the funding bill and blasted leadership for giving them only a matter of days to digest the legislation before bringing it up for a vote.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who will oppose the funding bill, described himself as "discouraged" and chided his colleagues over a "lack of responsibility."
"This is one of the most grotesque pieces of legislation I can remember," he said.