Border wall, other disputes sidetrack Senate spending work

David Lerman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

"It's a heartbreaking Nov. 22 target, which I can tell you from many years of experience is really Dec. 22," Durbin said.

Senate appropriators have tentatively planned to advance four bills through committee each week for the next three weeks. Thursday's markup is scheduled to include the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy-Water, and State-Foreign Operations bills, but aides said it was possible now that at minimum the Labor-HHS-Education measure won't be ready in time and could be yanked from the agenda.

The State-Foreign Operations measure could trigger its own partisan fights this year. The measure is another perennial battleground over abortion, with Democrats seeking to block the Trump administration's reinstated "Mexico City policy," which bars foreign aid funding to international family planning organizations that offer abortion services. Critics call Trump's move the "global gag rule," an international version of this administration's "domestic gag rule" used to refer to the new Title X policy.

Shelby and Durbin, for their part, represent the old-school bipartisan Appropriations Committee comity that detests such disputes that hold up federal dollars for their home states and their colleagues'. Illustrating this point, the two were caught on a hot mic after the defense markup Tuesday morning lamenting the current state of affairs.

Here are snippets of their conversation:

"I don't want to jeopardize this," Durbin said.

"I want to do it. You know it ain't me," Shelby replied.

"I don't want to be in a spot on Thursday where I'm doing something that breaks my heart," Durbin said. "If there's a way that you and I can do something on this, let me know buddy."

"Listen, I'm going to talk to McConnell and you talk to Schumer, and let's see if we can get together," replied Shelby.


Durbin: "Let's not waste any time."

Shelby: "I'm with you. Thank you."

And Durbin with the last word: "Your mic's on."

(Kellie Mejdrich and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)

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