Ron Johnson offers to end blockade in Senate spending package

Ron Johnson offers to end blockade in Senate spending package
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that he is willing to waive his blockade of the Senate’s effort to pass spending legislation if he wins an amendment vote on a bill to end government shutdowns.

Lawmakers told reporters that Johnson was in discussions with Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, about the potential amendment vote to the trio of funding bills — known as a “minibus” — the upper chamber is attempting to move.

The bill Johnson wants a vote on is being proposed by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

“If they get me that, I’ll consent,” Johnson said. “I need to make sure I get a vote. … That’s my ask. I didn’t ask for anything initially, but I appreciate the work the appropriators are doing.”

“We’ll see,” Johnson said when asked if Collins was amenable to that idea. “Are the Democrats amenable to it? They’re the ones who have to agree to give me a vote on that.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was noncommittal about the amendment vote, telling reporters that he had not seen news of the talks.

“I haven’t seen that yet, so I’m not commenting,” he said.

Collins told reporters that the lunch was “constructive” and that they might have “achieved a breakthrough” with Johnson.

“But that remains to be seen,” Collins said, adding that she’s asked Lankford to pass along language of his bill and had to talk to Democrats about the potential amendment vote.

The move would end the standstill that has lasted since Thursday, when Johnson objected to a unanimous consent effort by appropriators to move the minibus along. The Wisconsin conservative at the time was calling for the upper chamber to consider bills one at a time rather than via the three-bill minibus, and to start with the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending package.

Top senators and appropriators are moving the spending bills via a minibus because of the lack of time between now and the end of fiscal 2023, and to show that the chamber can functionally operate while the House finds itself mired in intraparty issues in moving its government funding bills.

Johnson wasn’t alone in calling for movement on Lankford’s proposal. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who chairs the Senate GOP campaign arm, called for the bill to pass during Republican leadership’s weekly press conference.

Lankford, alongside Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), has offered the bill, which requires that if appropriations work is not completed by the set deadline, lawmakers “must stay in Washington, DC, and work until the spending bills are completed.” It would also implement an automatic continuing resolution on rolling 14-day stretches.

“This will prevent a government-wide shutdown, continue critical services and operations for Americans, and hold federal workers harmless while Congress completes appropriations,” Lankford’s team said in a press release.

Schumer and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced Monday that the chamber would move to suspend the rules and advance the minibus with 67 rules to overcome Johnson’s objection. That vote was slated to be held later this week.

Updated at 3:31 p.m. ET

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