- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass appropriations for several federal agencies but remained gridlocked on a more contentious spending bill, setting up a government shutdown fight with the specter of an impeachment trial looming.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed forward a spending “minibus” package that covers five of the regular 12 appropriations bills. It passed 84-9 in the Senate soon after the House voted to formalize aspects of its impeachment inquiry.

The appropriations bill covers the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as a host of federal agencies such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Later Thursday afternoon, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on a more controversial spending bill, which covers the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Labor. A bipartisan solution to the spending impasse appears unlikely to be reached anytime soon with the partisan rancor poised to increase in the upper chamber.

Mr. McConnell said the spending packages were “Something that should not be controversial.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way, even in a time as politically charged as an impeachment inquiry, it doesn’t have to be this way,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor in anticipation of the votes. “Back in 1998, just days before the Republican House voted to begin its impeachment inquiry into President Clinton, the House and Senate passed a regular defense appropriations bill. Then some weeks later, even after the inquiry was under way, both chambers were still able to pass more bills to address the fundamental business of funding the government, and President Clinton signed them into law.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, however, labeled the proceedings on the spending packages as “show votes” and said, “Democrats will not proceed to a bill that steals money from our troops and their families.”

Mr. Schumer didn’t rule out looking for common ground on areas where the two sides could come to a limited agreement.

“The bills we are voting on where there’s agreement, we can move forward,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “This week has shown the Senate can efficiently work through these bills when we have a bipartisan buy-in. That’s how Democrats want to proceed on the remainder of the bills. Republican friends, work with us.”

Funding for the government expires Nov. 21, with the prospect of a government shutdown fight arriving a month earlier than last year. The most recent government shutdown was the longest ever, lasting longer than a month.

The next vote on the controversial spending bill is expected to come Tuesday.

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