A visibly frustrated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday accused Republican senators of “trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus in the House” after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objected to moving forward on a substitute amendment to a so-called “minibus” appropriations package.
Johnson’s move likely scuttled additional votes on the funding package this week and delayed efforts to fund the government before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“MAGA Republicanism seems to be taking over the Republican Party. You have the House in such disarray that they can’t even pass a defense appropriations bill, something that used to be their bread and butter,” Schumer said.
“And now all of a sudden you have a group, a small group in the Senate, trying to mimic Freedom Caucus in the House and holding up the defense bill, which had huge bipartisan support,” he said. “Republican leaders have to reject this MAGA Republicanism for the good of the country and for the good of their party.”
Senate Republican sources say Johnson wants to break up the appropriations package into individual bills so they match the House Republican strategy of passing the 12 annual appropriations bills separately to maximize leverage with Democrats in the year-end spending negotiations.
Senate aides said as a result of Johnson’s objection, the Senate is likely done voting for the week. The Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah will begin at sunset Friday, and senators want to get out of town Thursday afternoon, one aide said.
Johnson objected to a request by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to consider a substitute amendment to the appropriations package on the Senate floor.
The Senate voted Thursday morning to proceed to the bill by a vote of 91-7.
Johnson is one of several Republican senators who have put holds on the pending appropriations package, which includes the Military Construction/Veteran Affairs, Agriculture and the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bills.
Johnson defended his procedural objection as an effort to put the Senate in sync with the House.
“We need to return some function to this place. … A pretty simple objection. Let’s just proceed to this one bill. What’s wrong with that?” he told reporters.
“Just go onto military construction-VA. Let’s proceed to that and pass it, then wait for the House to send us other bills. Makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he and other Senate conservatives who have lodged objections to the bill moving forward say they want the bill broken up into individual bills so that they match the House Republican leadership’s pledge to House conservatives to pass the annual spending bills one by one.
“Generally, any of us that are fiscal conservatives are wanting to get the whole process back to something closer to what it was 20 years ago,” Braun said, who explained he wants to see the bills “broken up.”
“Whenever you put everything together, whether it’s a minibus or an omnibus, that’s to push expediency, not being thorough,” he said.
Braun said there are “seven or eight” holds on the bill and said he will not agree to move forward with the bill until he gets a vote on an amendment to “get rid of earmarks.”
Johnson’s objection elicited a frustrated response from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the vice chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Collins warned that Johnson’s objection to moving forward with amendments would increase the likelihood that Congress winds up with a massive omnibus spending package at the end of the year and block fellow Republican senators from getting votes on their amendments.
“I’m both surprised and disappointed that the senator from Wisconsin is objecting to this unanimous consent agreement,” Collins said. “Why is the senator from Wisconsin objecting to proceeding to three appropriations bills that were reported unanimously — unanimously each one of them from the Senate Appropriations Committee after a great deal of work?”