Budget Forecast Is Sunny in the Senate

Sen. Susan Collins. 
National Journal
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Sarah Mimms and Michael Catalini
Dec. 15, 2013, 7:10 a.m.

With the budget drama head­ing in­to its fi­nal act in the Sen­ate on Tues­day, ten­sions sur­round­ing the fate of the two-year deal are dis­sip­at­ing, with Re­pub­lic­ans sig­nal­ing they will not block the meas­ure.

Leery of say­ing how they would vote be­fore the House over­whelm­ingly ap­proved the deal on Thursday, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans opened up on Fri­day. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake and John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona said they would vote for clo­ture, and oth­ers in­dic­ated they’re con­sid­er­ing it.

Des­pite the re­luct­ance of some mem­bers to say how they would vote, the mood among sen­at­ors on Fri­day bordered on up­beat.

“I think it rep­res­ents a sin­cere ef­fort to com­prom­ise, move us for­ward, and end this lurch­ing from crisis to crisis that has been so dam­aging to the eco­nomy and to people’s con­fid­ence in gov­ern­ment,” said Collins, who is also likely to vote yes on the le­gis­la­tion.

Even Re­pub­lic­ans who op­pose the deal brokered by Rep. Paul Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray pre­dict the com­prom­ise budget would make ap­pro­pri­at­ing easi­er.

“We’ll work with whatever the num­ber is,” said Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “I’ve al­ways said if we had a num­ber, we ought to go by the num­ber, and if we get the num­ber — and I think we will, who knows? — I be­lieve the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess will start work­ing.”

While Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., op­poses the budget be­cause it ex­ceeds the caps set by the Budget Con­trol Act — the best vote he ever took in the Sen­ate, he said — he’s con­sid­er­ing vot­ing for clo­ture and sug­ges­ted he’s fed up with the im­port­ance with which clo­ture votes are now treated. Out­side groups, par­tic­u­larly con­ser­vat­ive or­gan­iz­a­tions, have be­gun to score even the pro­ced­ur­al votes.

“Al­ways the de­cid­ing factor was how you voted on the piece of le­gis­la­tion, not wheth­er you voted to end de­bate or not end de­bate,” Cork­er said. “So I’m think­ing: Is it time to end this de­bate on this is­sue?”

Cork­er said he thinks the Sen­ate will move bey­ond the pro­ced­ur­al hurdle, which is ex­pec­ted to come up Tues­day.

Mc­Cain, as well as a num­ber of oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, reasoned that de­feat­ing the le­gis­la­tion would be tan­tamount to pav­ing the way for an­oth­er shut­down, which proved polit­ic­ally dis­astrous for the GOP in Oc­to­ber.

“I’m not OK with it,” he said. “But I think it’s bet­ter than shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment.”

Sen. Thad Co­chran, R-Miss., who faces a primary chal­lenge from con­ser­vat­ive state Sen. Chris McDaniel next year, said he is still weigh­ing his op­tions on both the clo­ture vote and the un­der­ly­ing bill. Co­chran brushed off ques­tions about wheth­er his chal­lenge from McDaniel, who has the sup­port of sev­er­al con­ser­vat­ive out­side groups, is a factor in his de­cision-mak­ing.

Sen. Mike Jo­hanns of Neb­raska, who is re­tir­ing at the end of next year, is con­sid­er­ing his op­tions, but said that he is con­sid­er­ing vot­ing for clo­ture while op­pos­ing the over­all bill. “I’m very con­cerned about the pack­age, but I can also see the mer­its of a two-year deal,” he said Fri­day. “So I want the week­end to think about it and I’ll make a de­cision.”

But Jo­hanns and sev­er­al oth­er Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors pre­dicted that the bill will pass eas­ily, ar­guing that law­makers are wary of en­ter­ing the hol­i­days with the specter of an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down in Janu­ary hanging over their heads.

“It’s not suf­fi­cient to say we’ll let the gov­ern­ment shut down. We’ve seen how that works. People hate that.”¦ And so I think at the end of the day if you be­lieve in my crys­tal ball, this gets the votes,” Jo­hanns said.

The bill looks to have the back­ing of the vast ma­jor­ity of Demo­crats as well. Even Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who fre­quently breaks with his party, was vo­cal in his sup­port for the deal Fri­day, shout­ing to crowded re­port­ers: “I’m all for it! I’m all for it!”

Red-state Demo­crats who are up for reelec­tion next year also seem largely in fa­vor of the bill. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana and Mark Be­gich of Alaska said Fri­day that they would sup­port the meas­ure. But Sen. Mark Pry­or, D-Ark. — likely the most vul­ner­able sen­at­or on the 2014 elect­or­al map — is still weigh­ing his op­tions. His Club for Growth-backed chal­lenger, GOP Rep. Tom Cot­ton, voted against the bill Thursday.