Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is delaying a Senate vote on a funding bill to prevent a government shutdown, throwing Congress’s timeline into limbo.
The House and Senate needs to pass the two-year budget deal, which includes a stopgap funding bill, by midnight Thursday in order to prevent the second shutdown in less than a month.
Paul is demanding 15 minutes of debate and a vote on an amendment to keep budget ceilings in place.
If he doesn’t get it, he signaling that he’s willing to delay a procedural vote until early Friday morning.
“If they want to stay up until 3 in the morning, I’m happy to do it,” he said on Fox News late Thursday afternoon.
Under Senate rules, the earliest the chamber can take its first vote on the agreement is 1 a.m. Friday, after the deadline, unless every senator agrees to move it up.
The House won’t hold a vote on the measure until it is approved by the Senate.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to set up a procedural vote on the budget bill for 6 p.m., but Paul objected.
“My friend and colleague from Kentucky does not join the president in supporting the bill … But I would argue that it’s time to vote,” the GOP leader said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also pleaded with Paul to agree to let the vote be moved up, noting he could make the budget point of order and get a vote.
“Frankly, there are lots of amendments on my side, and it’s hard to make an argument that if one gets an amendment, that everybody else won’t want an amendment, and then we’ll be here for a very long time,” Schumer said.
He added that with a shutdown looming, he added that: “We’re in risky territory here.”
Paul said earlier in the day that he isn’t pushing for a shutdown but “I’m also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute.”
The Kentucky senator has lambasted the two-year budget agreement, which would increase the budget caps by roughly $300 billion and also raise the debt ceiling through March 2019.
On Thursday he called the agreement a “rotten deal.”
“When Republicans are in charge there is no conservative party,” he told Fox News. “A lot of so-called conservatives lose their mind when it becomes a partisan thing.”
Paul said he spoke to President Trump at 11 a.m. and told him to talk to McConnell about agreeing to an amendment vote.
A group of conservatives and fiscal hawks, including Paul and GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.), have said they will oppose the budget agreement.
Paul predicted that if he gets a vote on his amendment, roughly 15 senators could side with him.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that it isn’t possible to give Paul a formal amendment vote unless they opened up the floor for other senators to offer amendment votes.
“He wants to offer an amendment but that requires consent and you could imagine there are other people who might like to offer amendments too and that would open it and delay our ability to get this done,” Cornyn said.
Instead, he said leadership would talk to him about offering a “point of order.”
Asked if he was worried, he added: “I think it will all work out but it’s up in the air.”