Did Rand Paul Cause The Government Shutdown? It Might Not Last As Long As You Think

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It looks like the U.S. government once again shut down, although it may reopen a lot sooner than you think. At midnight the federal government shut down after Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) protested a two-year budget agreement and blocked the Senate from voting on the deal.

Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had announced an agreement on the budget deal on Thursday morning. It looked like it would be a done deal that day, but on Thursday evening, Paul raised objections on the Senate floor. To delay the vote, he argued that the United States should withdraw troops from Afghanistan, then criticized various programs, such as California's funding for school lunches and Washington, D.C.'s streetcar system.

After Paul held up the vote for as long as he could under Senate rules, the Senate adjourned a little after 11 p.m. until 12:01 a.m. ET without approving a budget deal. As the vote expired at midnight, the federal government shut down for the second time in two weeks.

Paul, a fiscal conservative, said on the Senate floor:

I can't, in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. But really who's to blame? Both parties. We have a 700-page bill that no one has read that was printed at midnight. No one will read this bill, nothing will be reformed, the waste will continue and government will keep taking your money irresponsibly and adding to a $20 trillion debt.

The government shutdown will likely be a short-lived, however, as Paul's single-handed protest only delayed an agreement that most senators seem eager to finally pass. The long-term spending deal has been a repeated drama in Congress for much of the past five years.

The proposed budget deal would have suspended the debt limit for a year and lifted caps on military and domestic spending, such as infrastructure, veteran hospitals, mental health programs, and tackling the opioid crisis. (Earlier this week the Trump administration renewed the public health emergency declaration for the opioid crisis.) In total, the budget deal would allocate nearly $300 billion in defense and non-defense spending, as well as $89 billion in disaster relief.

And while some of Paul's colleagues may be annoyed at him, some outside analysts agree that he is right.

On top of the tax cuts supported by the Republican Party, the budget deal could also lead the United States to more deficit, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. "When Republicans and Democrats get together they can agree on one thing, and apparently, it's to increase spending. But they haven't done anything as it relates to the deficit," said Bill Hoagland, an economic policy expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, in a recent interview.

But Paul's primary concern may have been that Congress seemed to be shoving the massive budget deal, totaling almost 700 pages of legislation, through in less than a day with no amendments. "This debate could have been shortened and could have been finished by noon today had we been granted 15 minutes to have one amendment," he tweeted shortly after the government shutdown.

The budget bill will most likely pass the Senate when it's put up to vote again. Then it will go to the House where it could face more adversaries from both parties. In a bizarre twist to the Republican Party's normally vocal opinion on reining in debt, Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration seem to be fine with spending legislation and tax cuts that will increase U.S. debt. But some staunch conservatives within the Republican Party are fighting back.

The Senate's budget deal doesn't address DACA and the fate of the program's young undocumented immigrants — referred to as Dreamers —who are allowed to study and work in the United States. The exclusion of this immigration issue could be a problem for Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made it clear that she would not support the Senate budget deal without immigration also getting a vote. The Senate plans to hold an open debate on immigration next week.