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Why Mike Lee's Amendment to the Omnibus Sent Democrats Scrambling Overnight

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

Late on Wednesday evening following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to a joint session of Congress, members of the United States Senate were back to squabbling over the 4,155-page, $1.7 trillion omnibus bill being forced by Democrats with assistance from some Republicans such as Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — and the massive bill might be in deep trouble.  


In a stroke of genius, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah decided to try and attach an amendment to the monstrous omnibus that would extend Title 42 expulsion authority that was set to expire this week.

Lee further explained on his personal Twitter account that the omnibus "contains nothing to secure the border, and in fact contains language undermining border security. Without an up-or-down vote on Title 42, every Senate Republican should oppose cloture on this bill," he said. 

And, instead of the insanity contained in the omnibus, Lee called on Senate Republicans to "support a short-term spending bill, allowing the new Congress—with the incoming Republican House—to start the spending process over again in January."

Lee's proposed amendment sent Democrats scrambling, and those antics are, oddly enough, uniting Republicans from divergent wings of the GOP. 

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted Wednesday night that "it is outrageous that Senate Democrats are refusing to allow a vote" on Lee's amendment which "is relevant to the underlying legislation and represents good policy for the United States." Notably, Graham said "Republican are willing to work with Democrats, but not at all costs." 


Graham has been a supporter of the omnibus bill while admitting the process "is broken and it is bigger than it should be," but it sure sounds like he's backing Lee who earlier called the omnibus an "act of extortion."

Graham continued, saying that if the omnibus "fails because Democrats care more about letting Title 42 lapse than funding the federal government, so be it." 

Following Graham's remarks, reporting from Capitol Hill painted a bleak situation as Democrats face an ever-closing window to pass the bill before Friday night's deadline after which the federal government will begin shutting down. "The bill is hanging by a thread," said Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware. Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana seemed to agree, saying he doesn't "anticipate much forward movement."

Confirming that the issue of allowing a vote on Lee's amendment regarding Title 42 might be big enough to sink the bill. Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut claimed Republicans demanding a vote on the matter is "not a good faith effort" before acknowledging it might be an attempt to "deliberately take down the bill."


Things were so bleak that the White House's legislative affairs team convened in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's office to discuss the "giant speed bump" that emerged from the commonsense concern raised by Lee. 

What Democrats are fearing is the potential for Lee's amendment to succeed in the Senate, but not be passable in the House, which would doom the omnibus and deliver a significant win for conservatives who believed a massive funding bill should wait until the new Congress begins work in January with Republicans in control of the House and able to rein in Democrats' latest spending binge. 

By the late night hours of Wednesday, the Senate headed home rather than proceeding with additional votes as was initially expected with growing doubts about how the omnibus might survive the week to be passed by both chambers and signed by President Biden before Friday's shutdown deadline. 

More talks between senators were promised for Thursday morning but, with time running out, it's clear that things are make-or-break for the omnibus bill that was, until recently, easily sailing its way through Congress toward passage before Friday. 


If anything is clear, it's that Lee is seeing success in rallying the GOP to make a stand for something conservatives actually care about and see as a dire situation that needs to be addressed now, not in another nine months when the current omnibus would expire and allow debate on funding again. 

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