Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Senate conservatives of “trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus” after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) blocked appropriators from moving forward with a minibus bill.
The chamber on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to advance a House-passed measure to fund military construction and the Department of Veteran Affairs. The bill is meant as a shell — appropriators want to substitute a trio of appropriations bills into the legislation, known as a minibus. But to do so requires the consent of all 100 senators.
Johnson objected to that substitution on Thursday from the Senate floor, but he’s not alone in his opposition. He and at least one other senator want appropriations bills to be voted on one by one. Other Republicans have made unrelated demands to lift their holds on the minibus.
Schumer bristled at their demands on Thursday, telling the Washington Examiner the standoff is just the latest example of “MAGA” extremism in the Republican Party. He alluded to gridlock in the House, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is unable to get the conservative votes needed to pass appropriations bills, and cited Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) hold on Pentagon nominees in urging Republican leadership to defuse the situation.
“Look, I think MAGA Republicanism is taking over the whole Republican Party. You have in the House the inability to pass the defense appropriations bill. You have in the Senate, one Republican senator, hard right, holding up hundreds of military employees. And now, you have a small little group here in the Senate trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus in the House and trying to even slow up a usually bipartisan appropriations bill,” he said. “What the Republican leadership needs to do is embrace bipartisanship, tell the MAGA Right to take a hike, and we can get things done for the country.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all 12 of its annual spending bills before the August recess but has had trouble bringing the first tranche to the floor. It cleared the first procedural hurdle on Tuesday, but leadership has so far failed to negotiate a compromise with recalcitrant Republicans.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, offered up 10 amendments to the minibus that would be considered at a 60-vote threshold, five of which were for Republican senators, but a number are still refusing to lift their blockade.
“I’m pushing for functionality to be returned to this chamber,” he told the Washington Examiner. “What’s wrong with taking up just one bill? Pass it, move on to the next.”
Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) is joining Johnson in that blockade — he’s placed a hold on the minibus until it’s broken into three separate measures, though he cautioned he doesn’t want to cause a shutdown over it.
“There are only seven to 10 of us that are true fiscal conservatives here that don’t want to keep borrowing money from future generations, and Ron is one of them,” he said. “So, we’ve all got that same goal in mind.”
Another fiscal hawk, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), is not demanding the minibus be split out, but he told the Washington Examiner he will object unless he gets a standalone vote on a disaster relief bill he introduced the other week.
Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) plans to withhold his consent until he gets a vote on the Credit Card Competition Act. He says leadership committed to giving him a vote sometime this Congress after he failed to get one as the Senate considered its annual defense bill.
The House is embroiled in its own drama, all as Congress barrels toward a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government. Members of the Freedom Caucus, who have leverage over McCarthy due to his threadbare majority, derailed an effort to pass a Pentagon appropriations bill this week.