Washington stumbled into another federal government shutdown at midnight Thursday, after GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky refused to allow a vote on a bipartisan budget deal before the funding deadline.
It’s the second shutdown in three weeks. The only question now is how long it lasts.
Shortly before 2 a.m. on Friday, the Senate voted 71-28 to pass a bill to reopen the government. The House will need several hours to finish work on the measure and pass it, if Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) can overcome opposition from House Democrats.
But the stalemate in Congress forced government agencies to prepare for a shutdown, even if it’s only for a very brief disruption, as the White House and GOP congressional leaders hope. A senior Trump administration official said it should be over “within a few hours.”
Still, the Office of Personnel Management emailed federal employees after midnight to make it official.
“Due to a lapse in appropriations, Federal government operations vary by agency,” the agency said. “Employees should refer to their home agency for guidance on reporting for duty.”
The House and Senate were expected to vote earlier Thursday on the bipartisan budget package, which would jack up federal spending by about $300 billion over two years. The agreement also calls for raising the debt ceiling until March 2019, as well as nearly $90 billion in disaster aid.
But Paul blocked consideration of the measure because he didn’t get a vote on an amendment to keep Congress under strict budget caps, as well as stripping the debt limit from the package. GOP and Democratic leaders feared if they let Paul proceed with his proposal, other senators would seek to amend the underlying deal as well.
Paul countered by delaying Senate consideration of the bill as long as possible, a move that angered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other top Republicans. Paul didn’t seem to care.