Senate Democrats on Monday moved to suspend the Senate’s rules to advance a stalled government funding bill after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objected to the legislation last week.
“Sen. Murray will move to suspend Rule XVI and file cloture on that motion,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on the Senate floor.
“This is an effort to move forward on the minibus and keep the appropriations process on track here in the Senate,” he explained.
The Senate had been making good progress on the annual spending bills, passing all 12 of them out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support, until Johnson threw a wrench in the works last week.
Johnson invoked Rule XVI, which effectively bars senators from expanding the scope of appropriations bills, to block Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Vice Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) from offering a substitute amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.
Their substitute amendment would have expanded the base bill into what’s known as a “minibus,” funding military construction as well as the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Johnson’s procedural objection brought last week’s Senate debate to a grinding halt, scuttling votes that were expected Thursday afternoon.
Democrats struck back on Monday by advancing a motion to suspend the Senate rules, an ambitious move because it would need the support of 67 senators to pass.
“It’s unfortunate that one member who does not represent the views of most senators prevented us from moving forward last week,” Schumer said, referring to Johnson.
Murray then stood up on the Senate floor to make a motion to suspend Rule XVI and said she hopes to get amendments to the minibus ready while the motion ripens.
“This is a package of bills which each of them passed the Appropriations Committee unanimously, and we have been working very hard in a bipartisan effort in good faith to set up a very robust process for amendments and debate,” she said. “Unfortunately, a few senators decided to object to us last week and now … we are moving forward.”
She said the vote to suspend the rules would happen “later this week.”
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, warned that suspending the Senate’s rules with a two-thirds vote is “not an easy thing.”