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Conservatives threaten to delay Senate bill to avert government shutdown

Conservatives threaten to delay Senate bill to avert government shutdown

A bill to avert a partial government shutdown Friday night is running into delays in the Senate amid partisan disputes, but is slowly moving toward a final vote.

Absent unanimous consent or an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Republicans, the upper chamber might not be able to vote until final passage before Saturday — after the government shutdown deadline but before many effects of a shutdown are felt.

The Senate voted 63-35 on Friday to clear a procedural hurdle setting up final passage for the package, but disagreements between the two sides threaten to delay final passage; 34 Republicans voted against advancing the measure.

“It’s gotten a little complicated, unfortunately,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber, told reporters while discussing the path forward for the funding package on Friday afternoon.

Conservatives — including GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Ted Budd (N.C.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) — are demanding several amendment votes.

Budd detailed an amendment he’s pushing for that he said targets undocumented immigrants that committed a crime.

“That is if you assault a law enforcement officer and you’re here illegally, then it clarifies judicial discretion and says that it says that you will be deported,” he said.

Lee also pointed to another amendment he said was offered by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) that would exclude undocumented immigrants from the official U.S. Census apportionment count.

“That would simply say that, for purposes of the congressional apportionment count of the census required by Article 1 of the Constitution, that the apportionment count must not include persons here unlawfully; illegal aliens shouldn’t be included in the apportionment count,” Lee said.

None of the amendments were expected to pass the Democratic-led Senate, but come as conservatives have been up in arms over the size of the funding plan, which passed the House in a bipartisan vote earlier this week.

The package calls for more than $450 billion in funding for the departments of Veterans Affairs; Agriculture; Interior; Transportation; Housing and Urban Development; Justice; Commerce; and Energy.

The combined six annual government funding bills mark the first batch of the dozen in total that lawmakers are working to pass this month for fiscal 2024.

Senators are hopeful they can meet the midnight deadline to pass the bill.

“I don’t think anybody wants [a shutdown],” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Friday when asked about the chances of a funding lapse this weekend, although he also acknowledged voting against advancing the bill in favor of what he called “an open amendment process.”

But he added that the recent vote represents “handwriting on the wall with cloture that there’s not going to be any amendment votes.”

“So, I assume once the realization sinks in that there’s probably not going to be any changes to the bill that hopefully will move up the vote and not delay the inevitable,” he said.

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