It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fiscal Bliss

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) answers questions as he arrives for a meeting of Senate Republicans on a solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government shutdown is in its sixteenth day as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives remain gridlocked on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms and Michael Catalini
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Sarah Mimms Michael Catalini
Dec. 16, 2013, 3:57 p.m.

After passing the House last Thursday with the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans, the budget deal craf­ted by Sen. Patty Mur­ray and Rep. Paul Ry­an is poised to clear its biggest hurdle with ease on Tues­day.

The bill is slated to come up for a clo­ture vote in the Sen­ate and seems as­sured of get­ting the 60 votes needed to ad­vance to a fi­nal vote on Wed­nes­day, al­low­ing law­makers to en­joy the hol­i­days without an­oth­er po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down loom­ing when they re­turn in Janu­ary.

Des­pite con­cerns about some as­pects of the bill, at least eight Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors plan to vote with Demo­crats in fa­vor of in­vok­ing clo­ture on Tues­day, set­ting up the meas­ure for fi­nal pas­sage when just a simple ma­jor­ity will be needed.

Re­pub­lic­an Sens. John Mc­Cain and Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, Richard Burr of North Car­o­lina, Susan Collins of Maine, Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, Johnny Isak­son and Saxby Cham­b­liss of Geor­gia, and Or­rin Hatch of Utah have all said that they will vote for clo­ture, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily that she is a likely yes vote.

Sens. Lamar Al­ex­an­der and Bob Cork­er of Ten­ness­ee, as well as Mike Jo­hanns of Neb­raska, have yet to state pub­licly wheth­er they will vote for clo­ture, but all three have in­dic­ated their open­ness to sup­port­ing the meas­ure as well.

Even Re­pub­lic­ans skep­tic­al of elim­in­at­ing the Budget Con­trol Act’s spend­ing caps in ex­change for new dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing ar­gue that sup­port­ing the bill would pre­vent a shut­down in Janu­ary and give some fisc­al clar­ity to busi­nesses and in­di­vidu­als head­ing in­to the New Year.

“This is a lim­ited agree­ment that pre­vents gov­ern­ment shut­downs through fisc­al year 2015 that would hurt eco­nom­ic growth and new job cre­ation…. Al­though I dis­agree with a num­ber of pro­vi­sions in the bill, on bal­ance the good out­weighs the bad. As long as the Sen­ate does noth­ing to worsen the bill, I in­tend to sup­port it,” John­son said in a state­ment.

Murkowski put it more plainly: “I don’t like the deal, but it’s a deal.”

Even if Demo­crats lose a few votes — a minor pos­sib­il­ity — clo­ture will be in­voked, set­ting up a likely fi­nal vote on Wed­nes­day.

While sev­er­al of the Re­pub­lic­ans who plan to vote for clo­ture on Tues­day will not sup­port the fi­nal bill, so far not one Demo­crat has come out pub­licly against it. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina, who’s in a con­ten­tious reelec­tion fight, said she will vote for clo­ture but was still re­view­ing the un­der­ly­ing le­gis­la­tion.

Sens. Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are ex­press­ing re­ser­va­tions about the bill be­cause it fails to ex­tend long-term un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, which will ex­pire on Dec. 28.

“I’m really up­set that they did not in­clude money for an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance com­pens­a­tion…. That to me is one area that just really both­ers me, and I’m go­ing to eval­u­ate wheth­er I can even vote for it,” Har­kin said last week.

Neither sen­at­or has yet said wheth­er they op­pose the bill, but they could fol­low in the foot­steps of their House col­leagues and vote against clo­ture. Last week, every House Demo­crat voted against the House rule to ad­vance the budget bill in or­der to re­gister a protest against Re­pub­lic­ans’ re­fus­al to in­clude the un­em­ploy­ment ex­ten­sion.

But the vast ma­jor­ity of Sen­ate Demo­crats plan to stick with their caucus and sup­port both the clo­ture vote and the fi­nal bill. Even Sens. Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas, Mark Be­gich of Alaska, and Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana — all of whom are caught up in dif­fi­cult reelec­tion races next year — plan to vote for the bill. Pry­or’s vote is par­tic­u­larly not­able as he is per­haps the most vul­ner­able Demo­crat up for reelec­tion in 2014, fa­cing Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Tom Cot­ton, who op­posed the budget bill in the House on Thursday.

Bar­ring any un­fore­seen shifts, the bill will go to Pres­id­ent Obama for his sig­na­ture later this week, mark­ing the first full budget en­acted since 1997.

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