With Noses Held, GOP Senators Say Budget Will Pass

WASHINGTON - JULY 15: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) asks questions during the third day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill July 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. Sotomayor faces a day of questioning from Senators on the committee and also a closed door session. Sotomayor, an appeals court judge and U.S. President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, will become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court if confirmed. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalini
Dec. 11, 2013, 3:52 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans by and large do not like the budget agree­ment very much, but des­pite their con­cerns, they ex­pect it to pass both cham­bers and head to the pres­id­ent’s desk, ac­cord­ing to mem­bers and Sen­ate aides.

The stick­ing point for mem­bers is that the agree­ment, brokered by budget co­chairs Rep. Paul Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray, lifts the spend­ing caps set in the 2011 Budget Con­trol Act.

Sen­ate Minor­ity Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, who this week got a high-pro­file primary chal­lenger in Rep. Steve Stock­man, said he’s in­clined to vote against the agree­ment. “I’m dis­ap­poin­ted that some people are ap­par­ently will­ing to give up the spend­ing caps for just more spend­ing and no en­ti­tle­ment re­form,” Cornyn said. “That was al­ways the deal most of us hoped for.”

While they worry about the spend­ing in­creases, mem­bers ac­know­ledge that the bi­par­tis­an agree­ment, em­braced by John Boehner and Harry Re­id, gives Con­gress a chance to avoid an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down.

“I don’t think any­body on either side wants a gov­ern­ment shut­down,” said Sen. John Booz­man, R-Ark., who ac­know­ledged that hav­ing a top-line spend­ing fig­ure, which the agree­ment will set for Con­gress, will make ap­pro­pri­at­ing easi­er.

The con­fer­ence is wary of tor­pedo­ing a deal be­fore the House votes, in part, out of re­spect for Ry­an, who’s earned a ster­ling repu­ta­tion among con­ser­vat­ives.

Sen. Ro­ger Wick­er of Mis­sis­sippi hasn’t de­cided wheth­er he’ll sup­port the deal, but said he ex­pects it to pass. “I know the po­s­i­tion the speak­er and Mr. Ry­an have been placed in and so it takes two to tango,” he said.

But, GOP Sen­ate aides said, law­makers real­ize it’s polit­ic­ally dan­ger­ous to risk sab­ot­aging the deal that avoids a shut­down.

“We’ll see what the House does,” said Sen. John Bar­rasso of Wyom­ing, who chairs the Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee. “I don’t like the fact that it busts through the caps. At first blush, I don’t sup­port it.”

Since the le­gis­la­tion is ex­pec­ted to come to the Sen­ate as a bill, it will be sub­ject to a fili­buster, which means that bar­ring any Demo­crat­ic de­fec­tions, Re­id will need five Re­pub­lic­ans to get clo­ture. De­pend­ing on the is­sue, a co­hort of Re­pub­lic­ans tends to co­alesce to vote with Demo­crats on clo­ture, even if they go on to vote against the un­der­ly­ing le­gis­la­tion.

One mem­ber who’s usu­ally in that group is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who, ac­cord­ing to her of­fice, has yet to an­nounce her view on the deal. But on Tues­day, Collins did not rule out the idea of break­ing the caps to provide re­lief from se­quest­ra­tion.

“I’m open to the concept of sub­sti­tut­ing some re­forms in man­dat­ory spend­ing in or­der to ease the im­pact of se­quest­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly on the De­fense De­part­ment,” Collins said shortly be­fore the agree­ment was an­nounced. “But really I’ve got to wait to see what the de­tails are.”

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