WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Senate on Friday struggled to pass a US$1.1 trillion (S1.44 trillion) spending Bill that would avert a looming federal government shutdown, postponing a vote until Monday when procedural hurdles begin to evaporate.Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to speed the process along collapsed during late-night talks in the nearly abandoned US Capitol.Barring any agreement to act in a more streamlined way, the Senate is on track to hold a procedural vote at 1am eastern time on Sunday, aimed at clearing the way for passage on Monday.
In order to keep federal agencies operating beyond midnight on Saturday, when existing funds expire, the Senate is expected to pass sometime on Saturday a stop-gap Bill to temporarily extend government funding through next Wednesday.
The House of Representatives already passed such a measure, anticipating the Senate's inability to finish work on the broad spending Bill this week.
The breakdown in talks capped a week in which passage of the massive spending Bill to fund most of the government through Sept. 30, 2015, advanced in fits and starts.
Some senators, angered over the Bill’s easing of a “Dodd-Frank” bank regulation law requirement, wanted a shot at removing the provision.But demands from some conservative Republicans for a separate vote on an amendment to immediately defund President Barack Obama’s implementation of a recently announced immigration program further stymied the Bill’s progress on Friday.The 1,603-page spending Bill, negotiated by Republican and Democratic appropriators and leaders, narrowly passed the House on Thursday following a battle that exposed fraying unity in President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.A revolt over financial provisions by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, long a staunch Obama ally, led to a day of tension on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Democrats balked at rolling back part of Dodd-Frank, an early legislative achievement of the Obama administration that was passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis and aimed to rein in risk-taking by Wall Street. Democrats also objected to a provision allowing bigger political donations.The Dodd-Frank provision would kill planned restrictions on derivatives trading by large banks, allowing them to continue trading swaps and futures in units that benefit from federal deposit insurance and Federal Reserve loans.Democrats, aware of the need for unity when Republicans take full control of Congress next year after their midterm election gains, tried to tamp down speculation of a lasting split between Mr Obama and Ms Pelosi. One leadership aide said Ms Pelosi had fired a warning shot to Republicans that House Democrats would fight hard in the new year.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opened Friday’s debate on the Bill urging quick passage. “Since 2011 we have lurched from crisis to crisis with the country constantly under the threat of shutdown or financial catastrophe,” he said.Senate Minority Leader McConnell was also anxious to avoid another unpopular government shutdown as the Republicans head toward taking control of the Senate after the November elections that also gave them a larger House majority.Democrats seeking to play down the Pelosi-Obama divide noted that the two actually were in agreement that the Dodd-Frank measure and some other Republican add-ons were objectionable, but differed on stopping the bill because of them.While Ms Pelosi put up a spirited fight to kill the add-ons, she stopped short of trying to slay the spending bill late Thursday by demanding “no” votes by her Democrats.The battle was a warning to Republicans against further erosion of Dodd-Frank or the President’s landmark health-care law, said a House Democratic leadership aide.If such challenges arise next year, Ms Pelosi said, “Should the president threaten a veto, the votes will be here in the House to sustain it.”
Democratic fervor against the Dodd-Frank provision was stirred up in part by Senator Elizabeth Warren, viewed as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.In a Senate floor speech on Friday, she singled out Citigroup’s“influence” on the US political process. “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.”
Another possible presidential aspirant, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, delivered a fiery speech late on Friday to rally opposition to Mr Obama’s immigration reforms.In the 219-206 House vote, 67 Republicans rejected the spending bill, largely because it failed to take action to stop Mr Obama’s immigration order. But that was offset by 57 Democrats who voted in favor.The spending Bill would fund all government agencies through September 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would get an extension only through Feb. 27. That is the department mainly in charge of implementing the order announced by Mr Obama last month.