The Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill late Saturday around 10:00 P.M. ET that funds the government through next September, avoiding a partial government shutdown. Congress will now send the measure to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed.
The Senate had approved a short-term stopgap funding bill earlier in the day, which bought Senate lawmakers more time to debate the separate $1.1 trillion long-term funding bill.
In the end, the Senate voted 56-40 for the long-term bill that funds the entire government until Sept. 30, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27.
Republican floundered during a symbolic challenge to Obama executive action on immigration, allowing Democrats to ram through two dozen of Obama’s stalled nominees to various federal benches and administration posts before their majority is kicked out at year’s end.
Establishment Republicans blamed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for giving the nearly expired outgoing majority an opportunity to seek approval for presidential appointees, including some that have been long-stalled by Republicans.
“I’ve seen this movie before, and I wouldn’t pay money to see it again,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The Georgia Republican was referring to Cruz’ effort to defund ObamaCare a year ago that led to a 16-day partial government shutdown. Establishment Republicans frequently cite falling poll ratings during the shutdown and claim grave electoral harm will befall the party if voters blame the GOP. Of course, it were those very same media outlets and their pollsters that misfired badly on the election.
“I wish you hadn’t pointed that out,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people.”
Cruz pushed for the Senate to vote on Obama’s executive action on immigration, which did what even President Obama said at least 25 times he didn’t have the authority to do — unilaterally suspended deportations for millions of illegal immigrants living in the country. The vote failed Saturday night by a 74-22 margin, with 23 of the 45 GOP senators voting no the point of order.
“If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional, vote yes. If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is consistent with the Constitution, vote no,” he said.
However, while the media repeatedly discusses divisions within the Republican Party, the debate over the spending bill exposed bigger fissures within the Democratic Party.
At the behest of leftist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged members to oppose the $1.1 trillion spending bill and shutdown the government. Warren, who is now a member of the party leadership and widely thought to be the leftist alternative to Hillary Clinton, said the effort was aiming to preserve the financial regulatory policy known as Dodd-Frank.
The stand kicked off a showdown between the White House and the far left members on Capitol Hill, which turned out to be more than half of the Democratic caucus, despite the fact that 70 of them voted for the same bill a few short months ago. President Obama and Vice President Biden were calling House Democrats appealing for their support. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also arrived on the Hill late Thursday to meet with members of the Democratic caucus.
The legislation preserves current spending levels, and includes provisions regarding the environment, funding for abortion, and the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia.
The second provision Democrats objected to — even though it is backed by the Democratic National Committee and the left’s congressional leadership — was the provision to raise the amount of money that wealthy donors may contribute to political parties for national conventions, election recounts and headquarters buildings. In fact, the provision was championed by outgoing Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose own PAC spent more than any other political action committee in 2014, hands down.
It’s an astonishing revelation considering the Reid-led Democratic criticisms of Citizens United, the billionaire philanthropist Koch brothers and Karl Rove. American Crossroads, Rove’s Republican-backing group, reportedly raised a little more than $28 million in 2014, but Reid’s group far exceeded those numbers by simply tapping Wall Street and K Street.
Nearly two-thirds of the money raised by Reid’s PAC — $34 million— came from big contributors giving half a million dollars or more, according to research of the Center for Public Integrity. Further, despite their objection to Citizens United, Democrats’ super PACs vastly outspent Republican super PACs in 2014.
Democrats lost control of the Senate in January because they took heavy losses in what was their second historic midterm defeat last month. Republicans will now have 54 seats in the Senate and the largest number of seats in the House than they have had in nearly 70 years, or during the Hoover Administration.