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Shutdown may not last long as Senate passes budget deal in late-night vote

The Senate passed a two-year budget deal in the wee hours of Friday morning — after the government was forced to shut down at midnight due to a political stunt by Sen. Rand Paul.

The upper chamber approved the bipartisan pact, 71-28, at about 1:52 a.m., capping a late night of theatrics by the Kentucky Republican, who thought the legislation was too costly and used his procedural powers to block it for as long as he could.

His move was enough to cause a technical shutdown at midnight, but the government would reopen once the bill cleared the House in the predawn hours, as was expected.

As Senate moved to pass the deal over his objections, Paul blasted his own party — comparing fellow Republicans to President Obama.

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“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” he said. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t, in all honesty, look the other way.”

Paul, however, voted in favor of President Trump’s tax reform, which is projected to increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Paul’s actions Thursday night were “effectively shutting down the government . . . for no real reason.”

“I don’t know why we’re burning time here,” he groused. “It makes no sense to me.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) also ripped Paul, and said, “We can right now provide certainty to people who expect government to be open or we can play this game until 1 a.m.”

Tillis said Paul shouldn’t have sought to derail the budget unless he had convinced “51 or 60 senators that your idea is good enough to support.”

“You can make a point all you want, but points are forgotten,” Tillis said. “There aren’t a whole of history books about great points in the US Senate.”

The deal would hike defense and domestic spending by more than $400 billion and raise the debt limit.

Paul had demanded a vote to restore budget caps that limit congressional spending to those enacted into law in 2011.

With Senate passage, the bill headed to the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he had the votes to pass it, despite stiff opposition from fiscal hawks in his own party, as well as from liberal Democrats.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told members to expect a vote between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday.

President Trump had already said he’d sign the bipartisan pact.

The Senate deal provides $70 billion for disaster relief for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, which are still recovering from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, respectively; $20 billion for infrastructure; and $6 billion to fight the opioid epidemic.

The pact was hammered out by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

In the House, many Democrats remain dubious because the bill does not offer relief to Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, who were protected from deportation by Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump rescinded last year.

Their permission to stay starts expiring on March 5, and about 700,000 Dreamers would then be in legal limbo.

But the administration has said that deporting Dreamers would not be a priority.

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