Senate Democrats lambaste House GOP spending bill: ‘not a serious proposal’

Senate Democrats on Monday universally panned the stopgap spending bill rolled out over the weekend by House Republicans, further increasing the chances of a government shutdown as both chambers remain stuck with less than two weeks before the deadline for an accord.

Top Democrats did not mince words about a proposal cobbled together by the various wings of the House GOP, including the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street Caucus, saying that provisions included in the bill have no chance of inclusion in a continuing resolution.

“Last night’s proposal in the House can be boiled down to two words: slapdash, reckless,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor. “Slapdash because it is not a serious proposal for avoiding a shutdown and reckless because if passed it would cause immense harm to so many priorities that help the American people.”

“Time is short to finish the job,” Schumer continued. “If both sides embrace bipartisanship, a shutdown will be avoided. If the hard right is given a license to run the show, a shutdown is almost inevitable. It’s that simple.”

Both chambers, however, are having trouble deciding how to proceed. 

The future of the House GOP bill remains very much up in the air as the conference deals with multiple absences, a dwindling margin for error after former Rep. Chris Stewart’s (R-Utah) resignation went into effect, and an increasing number of conservatives speaking out against the proposal.

If that opposition holds, it could be enough to sink the bill in the House.

But it’s the Senate that is hamstrung at the moment. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) moved to suspend the Senate’s rules Monday to advance a trio of appropriations bills after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objected to the legislation last week. Johnson is calling for the bills to be voted on one by one, a process that is more time-consuming than the bipartisan “minibus.” 

In order to move on Murray’s plan, two-thirds of senators will need to support the motion, but Senate Republicans were noncommittal to how they would proceed despite the overwhelming support the minibus received when it hit the floor. 

“This is a package of bills which each of them passed the Appropriations Committee unanimously, and we have been working very hard in a bipartisan effort in good faith to set up a very robust process for amendments and debate,” Murray said on the floor. “Unfortunately, a few senators decided to object to us last week and now … we are moving forward.”

That vote to suspend the rules is expected later in the week, according to Murray.

Senators also indicated they were not sure whether the Senate would move on a continuing resolution of their own before the House does. 

The monthlong House bill includes an 8-percent cut to discretionary spending, while maintaining current funding levels for Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It would also include the House GOP’s border crackdown legislation, sans provisions that would require E-Verify. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters that the inclusion of the H.R. 2 border bill is “certainly a problem,” but he declined to say whether he considered it a poison pill provision. Others in his party indicated the border package is not up for discussion.

“The underlying provisions are very extreme,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill. 

“It’s a non-starter. That’s the bottom line,” he added on the bill writ-large. 

Adding to the issues for Democrats and some Senate Republicans, the proposed stopgap bill does not include funding for Ukraine or disaster relief that was part of the White House’s supplemental request last month. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been a vocal proponent of including aid for the Ukrainians in their ongoing war against Russia. 

Senate Republicans largely held their fire on the House’s bill, with some arguing that it was a good first step for a chamber that has been mired with troubles on the government funding front for months. 

“We can’t do it alone. We’ve got to have the House involved. It’s good that they’ve at least put out a mark,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said. “If they can get it passed, then at least we’ve got a starting point.” 

“You have to start someplace. … At least getting the House to come up with something that they can get a majority vote on is pretty critical right now,” Rounds continued. “Some folks, if they are really obstinate, they may find themselves no longer being players.” 

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters that Republicans in the upper chamber are in wait-and-see mode and want to see what the House produces. He also indicated that they would know more on how the party will move ahead on Murray’s motion tomorrow when the Senate GOP meets for their weekly caucus lunch. 

“The ball’s in their court,” Thune said. “I hope they can execute on getting something done.”