Sen. Richard Shelby, a senior appropriator who did much of the spade work on the $1.3 trillion appropriations bill now rushing its way through Congress, still has no idea when the Senate will take its vote on the bill. The only person who knows whether senators will vote on Thursday, or be forced to stay until Sunday, is the enigmatic junior senator from Kentucky.
“You guys talked to Sen. Paul?” Shelby asked reporters after Thursday’s caucus lunch. “Did you all feel his pulse?”
Not even Paul’s Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had a read on his junior partner, whose objection to a unanimous consent request during the budget debate in February led to a brief government shutdown.
“We’ll find out in the next few hours how quickly we’ll be able to move this,” McConnell told reporters, in a rare acknowledgement of their existence in the hallway outside his office.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, meanwhile, said that he hopes Paul got it all out of his system during the February Paul-ibuster and would want to get home like the rest of his colleagues. Senators are never eager to stay in Washington beyond Thursday afternoon. But Republican senators especially don’t want to be here this weekend when a march for gun control descends on the Capitol.
The outrageous, absurd concern being expressed by Paul is that senators should have more than 20 or so hours to digest a 2,232-page, trillion-plus dollar bill that doesn’t just fund the entire federal government at new levels for the next six months but also touches policy ranging from gun background checks to the labor rights of minor league baseball players. After all, the House made quick work of the bill, passing it around 1 p.m. in a blitz that included Republicans gaveling a procedural vote closed before all Democrats could cast their votes. It’s a little harder to railroad something through the Senate, where one dissatisfied member can slow the process to a crawl.
“It’s just a question of if he delays the vote,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune said. “It’s doesn’t change” the outcome. And it’s not like Paul, who has philosophical objections to the existence of discretionary spending, is ever going to flip to a “yes” no matter how many times he reads through the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018.
When asked what he plans to do early Thursday afternoon, Sen. Paul said that he was only on Page 56 of the bill and refused further comment.