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Rand Paul objection makes a short-term government shutdown likely

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Feb 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-08 23:53:10-05

By LEIGH ANN CALDWELL
WASHINGTON (NBC News) — An objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., late Thursday is single-handedly blocking the Senate from voting on a budget agreement, likely forcing the government into a short-term shutdown starting at midnight ET.

Paul has raised objections because of the large price tag of the two-year spending deal, nearly $400 billion over the next two years. The agreement is an attempt to end the repeated drama of short-term funding bills that have occupied Congress for much of the past five months. But it, too, is providing drama until the end.

"I can't, in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. But really who's to blame? Both parties," Paul said on the Senate floor. "We have a 700-page bill that no one has read that was printed at midnight. No one will read this bill, nothing will be reformed, the waste will continue and government will keep taking your money irresponsibly and adding to a $20 trillion debt."

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 Watch Live: Senate debates spending plan with government shutdown on line
Paul's objections won't cause a prolonged government shutdown. His use of Senate procedure is simply delaying the inevitable: Senate passage of the long-term spending deal.

Still, the Office of Management and Budget is "currently preparing for a lapse in appropriations."

"As we stated earlier today, we support the Bipartisan Budget Act and urge Congress to send it to the President's desk without delay," an OMB official said.

There is also struggle in the House, where Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting at which they discussed how they'd vote. Most members emerged undecided, mostly because, they say, they haven't received a strong enough guarantee on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, or DACA.

"There's a considerable irony here that there's so many good things in the bill and yet there's an outstanding issue that's very stubborn," said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.

The 11th-hour complications revolve around the measure that was hammered out between the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. If it passes, the two-year spending deal would complete months of haggling on a variety of issues that have resulted in five incremental spending bills and a three-day government shutdown.

The spending deal would increase domestic spending by $131 billion and defense spending by $165 billion over the next two years, provide nearly $90 billion in disaster aid and suspend the debt limit for one year — until well after the midterm elections.

What the measure doesn’t address is DACA. The Senate will take up the issue next week.

The issue’s absence is reason for Democrats in the House, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, to oppose the measure. She spoke for more than eight hours on the House floor Wednesday in support of so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children.

But notably, and perhaps a good sign for the prospects of the legislation, Pelosi said she would not implore her caucus to vote against it.

“I am just telling people why I am voting the way I am voting,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning.

During the meeting Thursday night, Pelosi made a strong case to vote against the bill, lawmakers who attended the meeting said. But proponents, including those from states affected by natural disasters in the past year, spoke in favor of the bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wix., insisted that he will bring up DACA legislation.

"To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill: Do not," Ryan said at a news conference Thursday. "We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign. We must pass this budget agreement first, though, so that we can get onto that. So please know that we are committed to getting this done."

But President Donald Trump's support for a bill is a litmus test Democrats can't accept.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said it's time for Democrats to have "courage."

"Anyone who votes for the Senate budget deal is colluding with this President and this Administration to deport Dreamers. It is as simple as that," Gutierrez said in a statement.

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