Senate Moves Closer to a Budget Deal

Cloture vote is approved, paving the way for final passage later this week

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (R) speaks as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) listens during a Conference on the FY2014 Budget Resolution meeting November 13, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf briefed the conferees on CBO's budget and economic outlook.
National Journal
Michael Catalin and Sarah Mimms
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Michael Catalin Sarah Mimms
Dec. 17, 2013, 5:28 a.m.

The Sen­ate moved closer to passing the bi­par­tis­an budget agree­ment Tues­day, in­vok­ing clo­ture on a 67-33 vote and set­ting up fi­nal pas­sage for later this week.

A dozen Re­pub­lic­ans joined Demo­crats to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to in­voke clo­ture and send the bill to the floor, where it is ex­pec­ted to pass eas­ily, likely on Wed­nes­day, when just a ma­jor­ity is needed.

“This deal is a com­prom­ise, and it doesn’t tackle every one of the chal­lenges we face as a na­tion. But that was nev­er our goal,” Sen. Patty Mur­ray said on the Sen­ate floor shortly be­fore the vote. “This bi­par­tis­an bill takes the first steps to­ward re­build­ing our broken budget pro­cess. And,  hope­fully, to­ward re­build­ing our broken Con­gress.”

With Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship back­ing the deal brokered by Mur­ray, the clo­ture vote rep­res­en­ted the last chance Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans had to de­rail the budget agree­ment over their con­cerns, which in­clude bust­ing the Budget Con­trol Act caps and mak­ing cuts to mil­it­ary re­tire­ment ac­counts.

But Re­pub­lic­ans reasoned that block­ing the deal would amount to shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment again come Janu­ary, be­cause of the dif­fi­culty of passing any spend­ing frame­work through the di­vided Con­gress and a Demo­crat­ic White House. The wide mar­gin in last week’s House vote, in which a ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans ap­proved it, also gave Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans cov­er to vote in fa­vor of the bill.

The Re­pub­lic­ans who sup­por­ted the clo­ture vote were Sens. Lamar Al­ex­an­der of Ten­ness­ee; Roy Blunt of Mis­souri; Saxby Cham­b­liss and Johnny Isak­son of Geor­gia; Susan Collins of Maine; Jeff Flake and John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona; Or­rin Hatch of Utah; John Ho­even of North Dakota; Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Rob Port­man of Ohio. Sev­er­al of those sen­at­ors have already in­dic­ated that they will not vote for the fi­nal bill, al­though that will not pose a danger to the agree­ment.

Some Demo­crats wor­ried that the fi­nal deal did not in­clude an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits, which ex­pire shortly after Christ­mas, but their op­pos­i­tion wasn’t enough to stop the deal from mov­ing for­ward. Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id has said the Sen­ate will take up the is­sue when the Sen­ate re­turns from the hol­i­day break.

With the White House sig­nal­ing its ap­prov­al of the meas­ure, Con­gress will turn to the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess next. The House and Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee chair­men — Rep. Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., and Bar­bara Mikul­ski, D-Md. — have already be­gun stitch­ing to­geth­er an om­ni­bus spend­ing bill. Mikul­ski said her com­mit­tee will meet the Jan. 15 dead­line to fund the gov­ern­ment.

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