After five and a half hours of a government shutdown, Congress passed a sweeping budget deal early Friday morning to fund the government and lift stiff spending caps — giving Republicans another legislative victory, although it came at a high price.
The measure faced opposition from the right and left, but lawmakers were loath to force a protracted shutdown fight. And many lawmakers were eager to see higher spending on defense and domestic programs.
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The House vote, around 5:30 a.m., was 240-186. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) had urged her members to oppose the bill over the GOP’s failure to resolve the standoff over 700,000 Dreamers, but her efforts ultimately fell short. Seventy-three Democrats ended up backing the measure.
The defeat was a bitter one for Pelosi and other top Democrats, who have sought for months to tie a resolution of the fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to the budget caps negotiations.
The Senate had earlier passed the measure on a 71-28 vote shortly before 2 a.m.
The bill now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it quickly into law to avoid major disruptions of the federal government.
In addition to tens of billions of dollars in new funding for both the Pentagon and domestic programs, the budget package will keep federal agencies open until March 23. This will give time for the House and Senate Appropriations panels to craft a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that will fund federal agencies until Sept. 30.
The bipartisan agreement includes nearly $90 billion in disaster aid for Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The federal government’s debt limit will also be extended until March 2019.
“This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. Republicans and Democrats joined together to finally give our troops the resources and our generals the certainty to plan for the future,” said Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Senate Democrats also claimed victory.
“What makes Democrats proudest of this bill is that after a decade of cuts to programs that help the middle class, we have a dramatic reversal,” added Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped craft the deal along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and House leaders. “Funding for education, infrastructure, fighting drug abuse, and medical research will all, for the first time in years, get very significant increases, and we have placed Washington on a path to deliver more help to the middle class in the future.”
Yet the Senate vote came only after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to allow any action on the measure before the midnight funding deadline, triggering the second government shutdown in three weeks.
Paul blocked consideration of the measure because he didn’t get a vote on an amendment to keep Congress under strict budget caps, as well as stripping the debt limit from the package. GOP and Democratic leaders in the Senate feared if they let Paul proceed with his proposal, other senators would seek to amend the underlying deal as well.
Paul countered by delaying Senate consideration of the bill as long as possible, a move that angered McConnell and other top Republicans. Paul didn’t seem to care.
“There’s only so much I can do. This is a silly thing about it. I can keep them here until 3 a.m. I will make them listen to me,” Paul said on Fox News.
With a shutdown only hours away, McConnell tried to set up a vote on the budget deal beginning at 6 p.m. But Paul objected.
McConnell pleaded with senators to accept a procedural vote and allow the Senate to move a deal that Trump backs.
“The president of the United States supports the bill and is waiting to sign it into law. I understand my friend and colleague from Kentucky does not join the president in supporting the bill,” McConnell said. “It’s his right, of course, to vote against the bill. But I would argue that it’s time to vote.”
Paul told POLITICO on Thursday evening that he would not consent to congressional leaders’ plan without a vote on his amendment.
Asked if he’s worried about singlehandedly inheriting the blame for a shutdown, Paul replied: “No. I think it’s an important enough thing that we should have a discussion over.”
At midnight, the federal shutdown began, and the Office of Personnel Management emailed federal employees to make it official.
“Due to a lapse in appropriations, Federal government operations vary by agency,” the agency said. “Employees should refer to their home agency for guidance on reporting for duty.”
Even after all the Senate drama, passage in the House was not a sure bet either.
Opposition from GOP conservatives for Republican leaders to lean on Democrats for votes even as Pelosi took a hard line on Dreamers. In the end, more than 70 defied Pelosi and supported the package.
“Part of it depends on the Democrats,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday morning on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show. “This is a bipartisan bill. It’s going to need bipartisan support.”
During a two-hour Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday, Pelosi and party leaders made the case for why members should vote no but weren’t twisting arms.
“We have a moment. They don’t have the votes,” Pelosi declared inside the meeting according to two sources. Pelosi said Democrats needed to use their leverage on the budget deal to extract concessions from Ryan on resolving the standoff over Dreamers.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) warned his Democratic colleagues that donors would not support them if they don’t stand up and fight.
“Right now, I would say that I don’t believe that the Republicans are going to get enough votes from the Democrats to pass this, Gallego said. “They’re going to have to rely very heavily on enough of their votes.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.), top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said he would back the budget accord. Yarmuth said he believed Ryan wants a deal on the Dreamers. He also worried Democrats would get blamed for a shutdown.
“That’s my concern,” Yarmuth said. “If Republicans had 70 votes and needed 140 from us, then there’s no pressure on us. If they have 170 and we can’t put up 40 to support a bipartisan bill coming from the Senate, then we get blamed for a shutdown.”
After teasing details of the deal earlier in the day, congressional leaders unveiled the more than 650-page bill just before midnight Wednesday, proposing expansive policy changes and funding bumps for specific programs in every corner of the federal government.
“This is not the kind of deal you celebrate,” said House Budget Chairman Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who explained Wednesday that he had concerns he would be voicing to leadership before divulging whether he will vote for the bill.
Ryan played up the big boost in defense spending in order to placate Republicans, while also trying to reassure Pelosi and wavering Democrats that he is resolved to coming up with a solution for Dreamers.
“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share,” Ryan told reporters on Thursday, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “If anyone doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.”
Trump canceled the program last year and called on Congress to come up with a legislative fix he can support. Despite months of bipartisan talks, congressional leaders have failed to do so, leading to last month’s government shutdown and questions over whether Congress can pass a budget caps deal.
Ryan had hoped his latest statement — a different version of what he has already promised — will give enough Democrats cover to vote for the budget deal. But it wasn’t enough to assuage Pelosi who wants to protect the 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
A trio of House Democrats — Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) — also whipped their colleagues to oppose the budget deal, according to multiple sources.
A group of about 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.), were seen in an intense debate about the bill on the first floor of the Capitol Thursday morning. And members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were debating whether they should support the plan during their weekly lunch huddle later that day.
For a number of House Democrats, the budget caps deals means billions of dollars more in federal spending for their districts , funds they desperately want.
“I cannot in good conscience go home and say to my [hospitals that serve low-income patients] that I didn’t vote for this because of DACA,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a member of the CBC.
“Or I can’t go home and say to health centers that have already been handing out pink slips, ‘I didn’t vote for this and they gave me money for a permanent fix for your problem.’ I can’t go home and say to union people, ‘Look, they’re going to try to take care of your pension problem, but I didn’t vote for it.'”
Burgess Everett, Matthew Nussbaum and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.