No more government shutdown threats. For a while at least. The Senate approved a huge $1.1 trillion spending bill on Saturday that funds most of the federal government through Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. A small group of conservative senators led by (who else?) Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas forced the marathon weekend session, because they wanted to raise issues with Obama’s immigration policy. In the end, the move ended up backfiring, and “the result was Senate Democrats getting everything they wanted out of their last days of power,” as Politico notes.
Before senators passed the spending bill on a 56-40 vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to make progress on 24 of President Obamas nominees for government posts. The Washington Post explains why the move was particularly good for Democrats:
If the Senate had voted Monday on the spending bill under the original agreement, Reid would have had to wait until Monday evening to start processing nominees, and Democrats feared that as the holidays drew closer, more of their ranks would have left town before confirming all the nominees. But with Cruz and Lee’s actions, Democrats were able to accelerate the confirmation process and made it far more likely they could approve every contentious nominee that GOP senators had been blocking.
“What Cruz did aided and abetted us getting nominations,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Republicans, naturally, were not happy with the situation.
“I wish you hadn’t pointed that out,” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah told the Associated Press when he was asked if Cruz had ended up helping Democrats. “You should have an end goal in sight if you're going to do these types of things and I don't see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people.” For her part, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said the whole thing was counterproductive. “This reminds me very much of the shutdown last year, where the strategy made absolutely no sense,” she said. “Now, I guess the blame will be shared,” she said, noting that before it was liberals who were being blamed for holding up the spending bill.
The one exception to the funding until the end of the fiscal year is the Department of Homeland Security, which will only be funded through February 27. By that time Republicans will be in control of Congress and will presumably try to prevent funding to implement Obama’s immigration order to block the deportations of as many as 5 million people. Obama is expected to sign the 1,603-page bill before Wednesday.