WASHINGTON - The US government slid into its second shutdown in three weeks early Friday after a senator in President Donald Trump’s own Republican Party blocked a vote on a bipartisan budget deal before a midnight deadline.
The upper chamber of Congress closed up shop late Thursday and reopened in the dark of night for a new session at 12:01 a.m. (0501 GMT) Friday, launching a new effort to pass a bill to extend federal funding for six more weeks.
The Senate was expected to hold a vote on the measure at 1 a.m. and, if it passes, send it to the House of Representatives and then on to Trump, who could quickly sign it and nip the shutdown in the bud.
But his administration had already prepared for a halt in operations.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget “is currently preparing for a lapse in appropriations,” an OMB official said on condition of anonymity late Thursday, calling on lawmakers to get the measure to Trump’s desk “without delay.”
The bill, which includes a far-reaching deal that increases spending limits for the next two years and raises the federal debt ceiling until March 2019, would break the cycle of government funding crises in time for what is set to be a bruising campaign for November’s mid-term elections.
The rebellion that simmered among Republicans and Democrats over the budget agreement boiled over when dogged Senator Rand Paul refused to allow the Senate to act expeditiously to pass the spending measure.
Moving legislation swiftly through the upper chamber of Congress requires consent by all 100 members, but Paul objected.
The Kentucky Republican took the floor to blast the increase in federal spending limits, and in particular the fiscal irresponsibility of his own party.
“I can’t in all good honesty and all good faith just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits,” Paul said.
“If you’re against president (Barack) Obama’s deficits, but you’re for the Republican deficits, isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?” he boomed, adding that he wants his fellow lawmakers “to feel uncomfortable” over the impasse.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer warned late Thursday that time was running short.