Senate Fails to Finish Spending Bill

Ted Cruz on the right and Elizabeth Warren on the left hold firm in their opposition.

The Senate failed Friday to finish work on a spending bill, unable to come up with a deal that would please their parties' most ideological members.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the upper chamber would return Saturday to continue deliberations toward an agreement on a bill that might keep the government running after funding runs out Saturday night.

Sen. Ted Cruz, architect of a strategy that led to the last government shutdown, opposed the spending bill, calling the House-passed legislation a gift to lobbyists that does nothing to respond to President Obama's executive action on illegal immigration.

"Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama's illegal and unconstitutional amnesty. That's why I rise to speak here today," Cruz said Friday as Reid prepared to call it quits for the night.

Reid had planned to adjourn, setting up a vote on the omnibus spending bill on Monday evening. And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared prepared to agree. But a last-minute objection and procedural move by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee forced the majority leader's hand, pushing the Senate toward a chaotic close for the year.

"This is like Leadership 101. You should be able to get your guys to agree to simple procedure," a Senate Democratic leadership aide said. All 53 Democratic members and both independents were on board to vote on the omnibus bill either Friday night or Monday, the aide added.

The move by Cruz and Lee will force members of the Senate to return to the Capitol at noon on Saturday, where McConnell has indicated that Democrats will have to go through 40 procedural votes just to get their remaining 20 nominees onto the Senate calendar, according to the aide. Actual passage of those nominees won't come until later next week. First members will have to deal with the omnibus bill, which is now slated for a procedural vote at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning and a vote on final passage at 7 a.m. Monday morning.

In the meantime, the Senate is expected to pass a continuing resolution on Saturday that will fund the government through Wednesday, buying more time for members to jump through all of these legislative hurdles.

Reid had been negotiating with McConnell from Friday afternoon into the evening to bring up a vote on the omnibus bill, allowing senators to go home with their biggest legislative need checked off the list. Indeed, leaders of both parties wanted the vote done by Friday night because they were worried that a weekend away from the Capitol could wipe away some of the work done by Republican and Democratic whipping teams over the last 24 hours.

But leadership's efforts fell short, as Cruz and other conservatives angered by Obama's immigration order insisted the legislation attack the White House's executive action.

They weren't alone in standing against the bill, however. From the left, Elizabeth Warren held firm in her opposition to the $1.1 trillion measure too.

Warren mounted an aggressive anti-Wall Street speech on the Senate floor, railing against a provision inserted into the House spending bill that would loosen one of the restrictions set in the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul. "You know, there is a lot of talk lately about how Dodd-Frank isn't perfect," she said. "There is a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how Dodd-Frank isn't perfect. So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi—I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn't perfect. It should have broken you into pieces."

Nevertheless, prospects for Friday passage had seemed strong earlier in the day. After discussions over lunch, Senate Republicans talked confidently about a quick resolution on the horizon. The Senate's No. 3 Republican, John Thune, exited the meeting, predicting that members will quickly pass the omnibus spending bill and conclude the rest of their business for the year "sometime in the next day or two."

All 100 senators would have to agree in order for the chamber to take up the omnibus bill before the weekend. Republicans, McConnell indicated later in the day, had the agreement of their members.

But that agreement was dependent on a vote for a terrorism risk insurance (TRIA) measure, that includes another revision to the Dodd-Frank law and which Democrats find unacceptable. McConnell's deal also did not include votes on more than a dozen nominees that Reid has said must pass the upper chamber before the Senate breaks for the year (and he loses his majority).

Those include Obama's nominees for surgeon general, the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the director of the Social Security Administration, and nine judicial posts.

So Reid rejected the plan. He said Democrats still have "some problems" with the TRIA bill and will need more time to resolve them.

A senior Democratic aide called the inclusion of the House-passed TRIA bill in McConnell's offer a "poison pill."

"We're not going to finish tonight," Reid concluded. "We can finish the omnibus tonight, but we're not finishing tonight."

This story was updated throughout the day Friday.