US federal shutdown nears on fiscal hawk Paul's dissent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government staggered toward another shutdown on Thursday night after Senator Rand Paul, an outspoken fiscal conservative, single-handedly delayedSenate action on a stopgap funding bill wrapped up in a massive budget deal.

Paul engaged in an on-again, off-again speech on the Senate floor for more than nine hours, objecting to $300 billion in deficit spending contained in the bill, even as a midnight deadline approached for passage of the stopgap measure.

At nearly 11 p.m., the Senate declared a recess until one minute after midnight. By that time, the current spending authority for funding federal agencies will have expired, which technically would trigger a shutdown.

Even if the Senate changed course and voted swiftly, it appeared unlikely that the House of Representatives could act in time to prevent what would be the second shutdown of the year after a three-day partial shutdown in January.

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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 unexpected turn of events in the Senate underscored the persistent inability of the Republican-controlled Congress to deal effectively with its most basic fiscal responsibilities.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget said earlier in the evening it was preparing for a shutdown if the stopgap bill did not pass on time.

"The Office of Management and Budget is currently preparing for a lapse in appropriations," an OMB official said.

Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said the overall budget bill that includes the stopgap measure would "loot the Treasury."

"The reason I'm here tonight is to put people on the spot. I want them to feel uncomfortable," he said.

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

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatism, the Republicans and Trump approved a sweeping tax overhaul bill in December that will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

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.

Paul voted for the deficit-financed tax bill in December.

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

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