Fiscal hawk Sen. Rand Paul slows budget deal, shutdown looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Rand Paul, an outspoken fiscal conservative, single-handedly delayed U.S. Senate action for more than seven hours on Thursday on a two-year budget deal meant to avert a government shutdown, objecting to deficit spending in the measure.

As a midnight (0500 GMT Friday) deadline approached for passing a bill to extend federal spending authority and keep the government open, Paul engaged in a on-again, off-again speech on the Senate floor while his Republican colleagues grew increasingly impatient.

The senator from Kentucky, recently recovered from injuries suffered in an assault by a neighbor in November, said the bill would "loot the Treasury. ... The reason I'm here tonight is to put people on the spot. I want them to feel uncomfortable."

As the clock ticked down toward midnight, Washington braced for another possible, if brief shutdown. It would be the second this year, following a three-day partial shutdown in January.

It appeared increasingly unlikely that both the Senate and House of Representatives would vote to approve the bill before the deadline.

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Scenes from the night of the January 2018 government shutdown
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Scenes from the night of the January 2018 government shutdown
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with Democratic leaders on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) arrives at Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd R) with Democratic leaders leaves after a news conference on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with Democratic leaders on opposition to government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks on a phone outside the room during Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney talks with reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Reporters wait to interview White House budget director Mick Mulvaney at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) talks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (L) as they leave the Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) arrives at Democratic Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - January 19: Pizza boxes are seen outside the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as legislators work into the night to avert a government shutdown at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walk out of a Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate.(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks to Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) walks to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) walks to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) talks on the phone at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), at left, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), center, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), at right, walk to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) walk out of a Democratic Caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. A continuing resolution to fund the government has passed the House of Representatives but faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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The White House's Office of Management and Budget said it was preparing for a shutdown if the bill did not pass on time.

"The Office of Management and Budget is currently preparing for a lapse in appropriations. As we stated earlier today, we support the Bipartisan Budget Act and urge Congress to send it to the president's desk without delay," an OMB official said.

The bill, backed by Republican President Donald Trump, would end for some time the fiscal policy squabbling that has consumed Congress for months. But it would be costly and further underscore a shift under way in Republican thinking.

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatism, the Republicans and Trump in December added an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt with a tax overhaul bill, their only significant legislative achievement of 2017.

The new budget bill would raise military and domestic spending by almost $300 billion over the next two years. With no offsets in the form of other spending cuts or new tax revenues, that additional spending would be financed by borrowed money.

"I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits," Paul said.

"Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t in ... good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really who is to blame? Both parties," he said before ending his remarks at 7 p.m.

The delay gave Paul a chance to speak his peace, but it was not expected to block the bill in the Senate, lawmakers said.

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Rand Paul on the campaign trail
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Rand Paul on the campaign trail
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends the New Hampshire Republican Party #FITN Leadership Summit at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H., January 23, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 17 - Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., inspects an AR-15 rifle as he fires it at Crossroads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, on Sunday, Jan 17, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky and 2016 presidential candidate, stands on stage at the start of the Republican presidential candidate debate at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. With less than two months remaining before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary, middle-of-the-pack candidates hoping for a late surge in the polls have little choice but to come out swinging in tonight's fifth Republican debate. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Host Larry Wilmore speaks with Republican candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on Comedy Central's 'The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore' Soul Food Sit Down on October 23, 2015 in New York City. The show airs tonight, November 2, 2015, at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
GREENVILLE, SC - SEPTEMBER 18: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Eleven republican candidates each had twenty five minutes to talk to voters Friday at the Bons Secours Wellness arena in the upstate of South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 20: John Dickerson interviews Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the September 20, 2015 edition of 'Face the Nation.' (Photo by Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images)
2016 Republican presidential candidates George Pataki, former governor of New York, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, stand on stage during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. The main debate of the top 11 GOP contenders in the polls follows the 'kids' table' debate of candidates who didn't make the cut. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 7: Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks with the media at the Pints for Liberty event at Rat River Brewery in Columbia, S.C., on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reacts to a question about Sen. Ted Cruz as he arrives for the rare Sunday session in the Senate on July 26, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky and 2016 U.S. 2016 presidential candidate, questions John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, not pictured, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Senator Bob Corker, a key player in the congressional debate over the nuclear deal with Iran, told Secretary of State John Kerry that the Obama administration is engaging in hyperbole to sell it. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 29: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits to be introduced at a campaign stop at an Embassy Suites hotel on June 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Paul made stops in four cities in Nevada on Monday as he campaigns for the battleground state against 12 other Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential race. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, SC - JUNE 15: GOP presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) greets supporters at the VFW Hall on June 15, 2015 in Lexington, South Carolina. Paul took questions and spoke against government intrusion into the lives of citizens. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 09: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) addresses the Baltimore county Republican Party's annual Lincoln/Reagan Dinner at Martin's West June 9, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul launched his campaign April 7 in Louisville, where he told supporters, 'I have a message, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our country back.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) does a live interview with ABC News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. In protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect U.S. citizens' telephone metadata, Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, allowing them to lapse at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Senate will continue to work to restore the lapsed authorities by amending a House version of the bill and getting it to President Obama later this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tours Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Monday, May, 18, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., shakes hands with supporters before his speech outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Monday, May, 18, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and U.S. presidential candidate, speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition presidential forum at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates descended on Iowa for the event. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images ***Local Caption *** Rand Paul
U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky and presidential candidate, listens during a campaign stop in Atkins, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Paul will attend the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images ***Local Caption *** Rand Paul
VINTON, IA - APRIL 25: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) poses for pictures with guests during a campaign stop at the American Legion Hall on April 25, 2015 in Vinton, Iowa. Paul is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
NASHUA, NH - APRIL 18: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 18, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 11: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a rally at the Desert Vista Community Center on April 11, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Paul declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on April 7, and is the second Republican candidate to jump into the race. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
MT PLEASANT, SC - APRIL 09: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and GOP presidential hopeful speaks at a campaign rally in front of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown on April 9, 2015 in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina. Paul outlined a foreign policy vision built both on a strong military and a commitment to use it sparingly. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
MILFORD, NH - APRIL 8: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a rally at Town Hall April 8, 2015 in Milford, New Hampshire. Paul declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on April 7, and is the second Republican candidate to jump into the race. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, speaks during a rally to formally announce his presidential campaign at the Galt House hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Paul, 52, becomes the second Republican, and second freshman senator to join the 2016 presidential race. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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'IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN'

Republican Senator Thom Tillis said Paul could continue to postpone a vote for hours more, but that a vote was coming.

"The outcome is going to be something that my friend from Kentucky will oppose, but it’s going to happen. Because the majority of Republicans believe that funding the government is a pretty important thing to do," Tillis said.

The bill, crafted by Senate leaders on Wednesday, would not only stave off a government shutdown, but extend the government's debt ceiling until March 2019.

That step alone would help reduce uncertainty in U.S. financial markets at a turbulent time. Stocks plunged on Thursday on heavy volume, throwing off course a nearly nine-year bull run. The S&P 500 slumped 3.8 percent. 

If the Senate approves it, the bill will next move to the House, where a vote was planned and passage was expected but not assured amid resistance in both parties.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressing impatience with Paul, said: "Funding for the government expires in just a few hours. The bipartisan agreement before us funds our troops at the level requested by the Pentagon, addresses the opioid crisis, which is extremely big in the state of Kentucky and around the country, funds our veterans and many other shared priorities.

"Now I understand my friend and colleague from Kentucky does not join the president in supporting the bill. ... But I would argue that it is time to vote."

 

'DREAMERS' AT ISSUE

The bill is opposed by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi because Republican House leaders will not guarantee her that they will allow a debate later on about taking steps to protect some 700,000 "Dreamer" immigrants from deportation.

The young people were brought illegally to the country as children years ago, mostly from Mexico.

Trump said last September he would end by March 5 a program set up by former Democratic President Barack Obama to protect the Dreamers from deportation, and he urged Congress to act before that date. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month.

Even without Pelosi, House passage of the budget bill was widely expected because it includes more money for disaster relief, infrastructure and healthcare, which Democrats favor.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who backs the bill, predicted the Republican-controlled House would pass it. "I think we will," he said in a radio interview. "It's going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support."

 

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Katanga Johnson and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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