|Senate passes budget — first for four years
By: Ginger Gibson
|In the early morning hours Saturday after almost 13 continuous hours of voting, the Senate passed a budget resolution for the first time in nearly four years.
The proposal, which Democratic drafters say will reduce the deficit by $1.85 trillion between spending cuts and tax increases, passed narrowly 50-49 on a largely partisan vote at 4:56 a.m.
A handful of Democrats, all up for reelection next year and representing conservative states, voted against the measure: Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska). Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was absent.
Nerves started to fray about 2 a.m., with Democrats pushing to end the voting and Republicans trying to continue to consider amendments. In total, they considered 101 amendments.
The standoff brought leadership from both parties to hushed huddles on the floor as tired senators tried to intercede and speed the process.
More than an hour of negotiations ensued until a deal was struck, more than 30 amendments would be passed without a vote as a package. Another 14 amendments would be voted on beginning just after 3 a.m. to allow them to finally be able to vote on the budget.
It was then that conservatives in the Senate were finally able to move on some of their more controversial amendments. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments dealing with foreign relations in the Middle East and U.N. funding related to the legality of abortion, all of which were defeated. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered an amendment reiterating the rights in the 2nd Amendment, which was shot down after being ruled unrelated to the budget.
As part of a deal to move forward, the members agreed to remain seated and vote out loud as their names were called, an unusual event on the Senate floor.
The 12-hour series of votes — more than 100 amendments were considered, breaking a previous “vote-a-rama” record — is mostly political theater and gives both sides the opportunity to force votes on pet issues. The budget is non-binding, therefore none of the passed amendments will likely carry the weight of law.
But the votes are symbolic victories, demonstrating the ability of one side to rally enough senators to support a measure in hopes of using those votes for future bills. It also gives both sides a litany of roll calls to try to clobber their opponents during the next election.
GOP senators also used the debate to hammer the fact that Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) budget never comes into balance during the 10-year plan. Instead, they argued that it only raised spending and didn’t cut the deficit.
“Although Senate Democrats finally generated a budget after four years, the plan they produced raises taxes, increases spending and debt and never, ever balances,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after passage. “The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out in their Budget Resolution won’t become law.”
Democrats contrasted their budget with the House-passed version authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), arguing that theirs took a better tact of reducing the deficit without cutting Medicare.
The late-night voting ritual might have resulted in a budget finally getting passed, but it also lead to sleepy senators in the early morning hours.
Most moved in and out of the cloakroom, watching NCAA games on the television or sitting in chairs that are more comfortable than the ones on the floor. Others sat perched for long stretches at their desks, going over papers and fiddling with their phones while they waited.
Small groups gathered on the floor, joking and laughing occasionally.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) appeared to have decided to go a little causal for the occasion, going sockless for most of the day and into the night.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) moved up into the spectators gallery, chatting with a group while he watched the proceedings. The pile of papers on Sen. Barbara Boxer’s desk grew through the night, making hers the most cluttered at the end.
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