Senate Passes Long Term Spending Bill To Avoid Government Shutdown

PHOTO: Senators rush to the floor for a procedural vote to advance the $585 billion defense bill at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 11, 2014.J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
Senators rush to the floor for a procedural vote to advance the $585 billion defense bill at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 11, 2014.

In a rare Saturday session, the Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending measure that would fund most of the government for nine months, capping off a week of high-stakes drama over the funding bill and avoiding any government shutdown in the near future.

The Senate voted 56 to 40 to approve the measure. The bill will now head to the White House for President Obama's signature.

The spending measure will fund the government, except for the Department of Homeland Security, through next September. The DHS will be funded through Feb. 27, a timeframe designed to give Republican lawmakers an opportunity to tackle Obama's executive action on immigration.

After a day of non-stop votes related to nominations, Senate leadership came to an agreement in the early evening to hold a vote on the spending measure Saturday night -- moving up a vote on final passage by almost two days.

The vote finished off a week of high stakes drama as discontent arose from both Democrats and Republicans about certain measures in the $1.1 trillion spending measure.

Some Republicans were upset the spending measure did not include a way to address Obama's executive action on immigration. Some Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were irked by last minute provisions that weakened campaign finance laws and rolled back the limits placed on Wall Street banks in Dodd-Frank. Twenty one Senate Democrats and one independent voted against the measure.

The House narrowly passed the measure on Thursday with a vote of 219-206 after the administration pressed lawmakers to vote in favor of the spending package.

The Senate held the rare Saturday session after Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, demanded Friday night that the upper chamber stay in session to vote to defund President Obama's executive action on immigration.

The Senate ultimately voted on a motion on the point of order, which Cruz had advocated for, but the vote failed with around twenty senators opposing Cruz.

“One month ago President Obama announced unprecedented executive amnesty, in direct conflict with the immigration laws passed by Congress,” Cruz said ahead of the vote. “Tonight both Democrats and Republicans will have the opportunity to show America whether they stand with the president who is defying the will of the voters or with the millions of Americans who want a safe and legal immigration system.”

The Saturday session provided Senate Democrats with the opportunity to tee up votes on nominees Republicans adamantly oppose throughout the day. The move spurred frustration among some Republicans towards Cruz and Lee.

"I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "For some of the nominations, surgeon general and others that we had issues with that likely would not have moved forward, now they move forward."

"This reminds me very much of the shutdown last year where the strategy made absolutely no sense and was counterproductive and I believe that we're in the same kind of situation today," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said today.

Today's vote-a-rama allowed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to place 24 of Obama's nominees -- including Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general and Tony Blinken to be deputy secretary of state -- on the calendar for a vote before the Senate adjourns next week.

Senators cancelled weekend plans to be in place to vote due to the rare Saturday session.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was slated to be landing in Iraq today while Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he was supposed to hold meet and greets in the northwest part of his home state.

After leaving the Capitol to drive to Pittsburgh Friday night, only to turn back to Washington hours later, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., missed an early Christmas celebration with his family and grandchildren.

The Senate plans to return on Monday with a number of items left on its pre-holiday to-do list, including tax extenders and confirming nearly two dozen nominations.