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Senate conservatives not ready to threaten a brief shutdown by delaying spending deal

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Senate conservatives are angry about the $1.2 trillion government funding deal — but they’re stopping short of any threats to slow its eventual passage in their chamber.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a perennial thorn in the side of leadership given his tendency to object to speedy passage of legislation, told POLITICO that “I’m going to continue to talk about how bad it is to have a $35 trillion debt.” When asked if he’d slow senators from approving the funding package, though, he said only “we’ll see.”

“To have a reasonable expectation that you can have amendment votes and take the time to review a bill is not being unrealistic,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said, declining to say whether he’d insist on specific amendments of his own. “This is a crazy way to run a country.”

Both parties have been negotiating potential amendment votes throughout the week, even before the spending bill’s text got released — an escape hatch designed to give conservatives airtime for the issues they care about most while not impeding quicker passage of the legislation.

“Amendments are coming,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), adding the process would “hopefully” not result in a shutdown. Funding for parts of the government lapse after Friday.

The legislation came out shortly after 2 a.m. on Thursday, with House members expected to vote on passage on Friday. The six-bill package emerged following days of heated negotiations on border security and immigration provisions.

Many Senate conservatives expressed frustration with Speaker Mike Johnson’s handling of the situation, even as the Louisiana Republican contends with the narrowest of GOP majorities — just two votes and further shrinking at the end of this week. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he was “disappointed” with how the speaker conducted the negotiations.

“The whole process has been a total disaster,” he said.

Other conservatives, such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), also told POLITICO in interviews they were unlikely to slow the bill’s eventual passage.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), another staunch conservative, spoke on the floor to ask until April 12 to review the legislation prior to its passage. That would, of course, then entail a continuing resolution in order to keep the government fully open. Conservatives typically detest those sort of stopgap bills, too.

“We must dismantle this corrupt process,” the Utah Republican said on the floor.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not yet indicated whether he intends to allow amendments. But he bemoaned delays in government funding on Thursday morning, quipping that “some folks here in the Capitol are past the point of exhaustion.”

Senate Democrats are still keeping their weekends flexible — but insist work could be done rather quickly, if Paul and other conservatives dispense with their typical threats to force delays.

“They may want amendments,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “If we really want to get something done, we’ve shown the ability to [have] everybody sit in their seat, we’re gonna do amendments, we can do one every 10 minutes.”

It’s possible that the government might go through a brief weekend shutdown, if wrenches are thrown in the Senate’s gears, before opening on Monday once the Senate’s internal clock is exhausted. Kaine framed it all as a delay, however, rather than an actual risk of a real closure.

“We know the votes are there, we’ll avoid a shutdown,” he said.