WASHINGTON -- Thursday night, the Senate passed a temporary spending bill to stop a government shutdown. The shutdown was scheduled to occur Saturday unless Congress acts.
The funding measure, which will keep the lights on for the government through March 11, was passed by Senators 65 to 27. Both chambers of Congress are trying to reach a wider agreement on a spending package that will cover the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Last week, the House approved the short-term bill (also known as a continuing resolution) in a vote of 272-162. For President Joe Biden to sign, the legislation is now on his desk.
This week, both party senators repeatedly stated that there was no risk of a shutdown. However, four GOP senators obstructed the passage of the bill and demanded votes on key conservative priorities.
Senior Democrats were furious and warned that the infighting between partisans sent the wrong message both to the global community and to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a crucial moment when top U.S. officials are warning Moscow not to invade Ukraine.
"Everyone has the right of speech. Everyone has the right make any political point they wish for any group. Let's not forget about our U.S. senators. On Thursday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) thundered that a war was about to begin in Ukraine. "What we are saying is that we will begin putting all these items in to slow down a continuing resolution so that the United States government can close tomorrow night.
"Putin could say, "Why should they listen to me?" "Putin can say, "Why should I listen to them?"
All four GOP issues that prevented passage of the funding bill from being passed were domestic.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wanted to vote on a bill that was also supported by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). This bill would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services funding crack pipe distribution. Officials from the Biden administration claim that a $30 million HHS program to combat substance abuse and overdose is not sufficient to pay for crack pipes.
Thursday's Rubio attempted to pass crack-pipes legislation through a simple voice vote. Democrats opposed.
Three amendments from conservative Republicans were also rejected by Democrats. The first amendment, proposed by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), would have required that the government balance its budget each year.
Two additional amendments were made to Covid-19 mandates. Senator Mike Lee (Republican from Utah) demanded that funding be withdrawn for the enforcement all federal vaccine mandates. Sen. Ted Cruz (Republican from Texas) got a vote for an amendment to stop funding for child care centers and schools that require Covid-19 vaccinations.
"President Biden's mandates for vaccines are illegal. The Supreme Court has largely overturned them. They are abusive," Cruz, an ex-Texas solicitor general, said. Cruz was the one who led the government shutdown of 2013, in an unsuccessful attempt to defund Obamacare.
He said, "We are witnessing petty autoritarians who say: 'Mom! You don't have the right to decide whether your 5-year-old, 6-year-old, or 7-year old will get this vaccine.
Some Senate absences contributed to the delay. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) is currently recovering from a stroke. He tweeted Thursday that he is now in Washington. Senator Mark Kelly, D. Arizona, had to fly home to Arizona with his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was also taking care of a family matter.
Democrats were concerned that some GOP amendments might be passed in the 50-50 Senate because of those missing senators. This is where there is no wiggle room for the party. Democratic leaders held their ground and waited for a few GOP senators to leave town on Thursday night. This ensured that Democrats had enough votes to defeat the GOP proposals.
The Lee amendment was defeated by just one vote (46-47), while the Cruz amendment was defeated by 44-49 votes.
A dozen senators raced to get to Munich Security Conference on Thursday, just after the vote on the spending bill. The conference will begin Friday and focus on Russian aggression towards Ukraine.
CORRECTION (Feb. 17, 20,22, 6:53 pm. ET: An earlier version of this article mispelled the first name for a senator from California. Dianne Feinstein is her name, not Diane.