A package of three appropriations bills cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday as the possibility of a government shutdown loomed on the horizon.
With an 85–12 vote, the Senate invoked cloture on spending concerning military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
The Senate is expected to vote on the package on Wednesday.
As Tuesday’s vote took place, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) heralded the advancement of the appropriations process as “a good step forward” toward passing not only the bills in question but also a continuing resolution to extend government funding while budget negotiations continue.
That’s a sentiment that was shared by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who told The Epoch Times that he was glad to see the Senate moving forward in bipartisanship to fund the federal government.
“We obviously also need to get a continuing resolution through as a stopgap measure,” he added. “And that’s a huge contrast to the House of Representatives, where Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy has been captured by his far-right wing.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) simply said: “Let’s see what happens. There’s a lot of games to play.”
Lawmakers are up against a tight deadline to pass all the required appropriations bills by Sept. 30, the final day of fiscal year 2023. If Congress fails to accomplish that goal, a government shutdown could be in the works.
During debt ceiling negotiations earlier this year, Republicans and Democrats agreed to suspend the nation’s $31.4 trillion spending cap, keeping spending levels essentially flat through Jan. 1, 2025. But another showdown could take place as Republicans seek to secure spending cuts on top of that deal.
On Sept. 7, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bipartisanship in advancing all 12 required appropriations bills to the full Senate as “a lesson in how governing should work.”
“That doesn’t mean parties have agreed on everything,” Mr. Schumer added on the Senate floor. “We know that won’t happen. But what it means is that our disagreements have not paralyzed the process. That’s the mark of good governance.”
Calling on House Republicans to follow in the committee’s footsteps, Mr. Schumer urged them to work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
“We do not need to go down that road,” he said. “And we cannot follow the lead of the mindless few who believe a shutdown is a good thing and who want it and who openly admit they want it. They’re hurting the American people, plain and simple.”
Leaders in both chambers have voiced support for passing a short-term continuing resolution to temporarily extend government funding. But the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus has vowed to oppose such a resolution without certain concessions from Democrats.
Specifically, the caucus is requiring the inclusion of the Secure the Border Act passed earlier this year by the House, as well as provisions addressing the “unprecedented weaponization” of the FBI and Justice Department and ending the “cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon undermining our military’s core warfighting mission.”
At a Tuesday press conference, Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said his caucus would not support a continuing resolution that “continues the policies and the spending of the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi era.”
“We’re not going to vote for it,” Mr. Perry said. “We didn’t vote for it last December, and we’re not going to vote for it now.”
As for accusations of brinkmanship, the congressman added: “We’re not here to talk about brinkmanship. No one here is interested in a pause in government funding. What we’re interested in is taking the Biden boot off the neck of the American people.”
That boot, fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) contended, has been “trampling” the public with weaponized agencies and out-of-control spending.
“How many migrants have to die in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio? How many have to die in the Rio Grande? How many girls have to get sold into the sex trafficking trade before this body will wake up and stop an out-of-control president?” Mr. Roy wondered.
“I will not continue to fund a government at war with the American people,” he added. “We are here to change it, it is time to end it, and I’m proud to stand with these patriots to do that.”
If unresolved, the spending dispute could mean another speakership battle reminiscent of the standoff that took place in January.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he was “out of compliance” with the agreement that secured him the gavel.
“We have had no vote on term limits or on balanced budgets, as the agreement demanded and required,” Mr. Gaetz noted. “There’s been no full release of the Jan. 6 tapes, as you promised. There’s been insufficient accountability for the Biden crime family, and instead of cutting spending to raise the debt limit, you relied on budgetary gimmicks and rescissions so that you ultimately ended up serving as the valet to underwrite Biden’s debt and advance his spending agenda.”
Further contending that the House’s subpoena power and power of the purse had been under-utilized, the congressman stressed that Mr. McCarthy’s earlier announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden was a “baby step” that must be built upon if he wanted to keep his position as speaker.
“No continuing resolutions,” Mr. Gaetz warned. “Individual spending bills or bust. Votes on balanced budgets and term limits. Subpoenas for Hunter Biden and the members of the Biden family who have been … grifting off of this country, and the impeachment for Joe Biden that he so richly deserves. Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair.”
Just one vote would be needed to force a vote on the speaker’s removal thanks to the deal he cut in January.
The Epoch Times has contacted Mr. McCarthy’s office for comment.