What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Another spending bill cliffhanger may come down to a single senator

The House of Representatives passed the mammoth $1.3 trillion spending bill on Thursday, in order to avert a government shutdown on Friday. What will its fate be in the Senate? And will Sen. Rand Paul force a shutdown? John Yang learns more from Erica Werner of The Washington Post.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, the House of Representatives today passed a mammoth $1.3 trillion spending bill to avert a government shutdown tomorrow. But its fate is less certain in the Senate.

    John Yang explores what is ahead.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, for the very latest, we're joined by Erica Werner, who covers Congress for The Washington Post.

    Erica, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    What is the state of play right now in the Senate?

  • Erica Werner:

    Well, it's uncertain.

    It all depends, as your viewers likely know, on what one senator decides to do. That is Rand Paul of Kentucky, who last month forced the government into a brief shutdown that lasted just several hours in the course of one night, when he held up a spending bill that was actually the precursor setting the parameters to the bill that's currently before Congress.

    He has not said what he's going to do. He would have the ability, again, because of the compressed timing, to force a showdown if he holds things up. He's spent the day tweeting his objections to the bill, pointing out things that he views as unnecessary spending, but he has not said what he's going to do.

  • John Yang:

    Could this — if he does force a shutdown, how long would it likely last?

  • Erica Werner:

    Well, it wouldn't be longer than, say, a day, perhaps a little bit longer than that.

    He single-handedly doesn't have the ability to hold the floor for more than several hours or so, depending on how Senator McConnell tries to enforce the rules.

    So we are so close, though, to that deadline, which is 12:01 a.m. Saturday, that he would be able to, if he held things, protracted them as long as he could, force a showdown of some period of time.

  • John Yang:

    And it's not just Senator Paul.

    When it passed the House, there was a lot of grumbling from conservative House Republicans. What's their complaint?

  • Erica Werner:

    That's right.

    Conservatives in both chambers are very upset about this legislation because of the size of it, the massive increases for the military, but problematic, from their view, for domestic agencies, which are seeing an increase in about $52 billion in — over 2017 levels, this bill funding the remainder of the 2018 budget years.

    This spending is raining billions of dollars down, tens of billions of dollars on federal agencies large and small, everything from the National Institutes of Health, the Park Service, cleanup of the Great Lakes, any number of things, some of which are bipartisan priorities, but many of which conservatives view as unnecessary.

  • John Yang:

    And the Democrats have a lot to be happy about in this bill, don't they?

  • Erica Werner:

    That's right. And that's part of what gets under conservatives' skin, is that Democrats are claiming victory here, proclaiming that they got lot of wins, pointing to numerous agencies, programs that have been underfunded, from the Centers for Disease Control, other things that they have been wanting to fund for years.

    And now they're getting this win in this omnibus spending bill because, from their minority position in the Senate, they were able to use their leverage to force their priorities into this bill.

  • John Yang:

    So, to sum this up, how likely do you think a shutdown, even though brief, is this weekend?

  • Erica Werner:

    I'm afraid that it's not known at this time.

    Senator Paul, of course, has been asked repeatedly throughout the week and throughout today about what he's going to do, and he's not said. Just now, his office again sent out an e-mail to reporters in which they declined to show his hand on what he's going to do, but directed reporters to his Twitter feed, where, again, he's been posting pictures of himself holding this massive bill, lists of items that he objects to, but has not said what his strategy is going to be.

  • John Yang:

    Erica Werner of The Washington Post on another cliffhanger, thanks for joining us.

  • Erica Werner:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment