Senate approves two-year budget deal in 3 a.m. vote
By Jordain Carney
The Senate passed a two-year budget deal that raises the debt ceiling early Friday morning, sending the agreement to President Obama’s desk.
The deal was approved in a 64-35 vote after 3 a.m. after a late speech by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who criticized the legislation as a blank check for President Obama to add to the nation’s debt.
“Both sides of the aisle have what I would call sacred cows. On the right, they have the sacred cow of military contracts. …The left wants more welfare,” he said, adding, “Should we give Congress more money? Hell no.
Few other senators seemed interested in Paul’s speech, as the presiding officer repeatedly had to ask senators to keep their conversations down so that Paul could speak.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted her dissatisfaction, arguing the GOP presidential candidate was simply seeking attention for his campaign.
“Senate &staff all here at 1:55 am so that Pres candidate Rand Paul can send tweet out telling fans to watch him,” she said.
Thirty-five Republicans opposed the deal, including Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who are facing tough reelection battles in blue-leaning states next year.
The legislation clears the calendar of major fiscal fights, including funding the government, until after the 2016 elections that will see Republicans defending 24 Senate seats.
The bill also drew strong pushback from conservative senators, who suggested leadership caved on the debt ceiling, negotiated in secret and tried to push the legislation through Congress on an expedited schedule.
“The bill is the product of an unfair, dysfunctional, and undemocratic process — a process that is virtually indistinguishable from what we promised the American people a G.O.P.-controlled Congress would bring to an end,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said from the Senate floor.
He added that the legislation “represents the last gasping breath of a disgraced bipartisan beltway establishment on the verge of collapse.”
Lee and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) circulated a letter ahead of the vote asking that their colleagues join them in rejecting the deal.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was the only GOP presidential contender to vote for the package. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all voted against it.
The Senate’s action on the agreement comes after House lawmakers passed the deal 266-167, including the support of 79 Republicans.
The package was a final legislative victory for outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who officially submitted his resignation on Thursday.
It also gives new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) breathing room as he settles in to the House’s top spot, by allowing him to avoid what had been a looming Nov. 3 deadline to pass a debt bill and mid-December deadline fund the government.
The deal suspends the limit on borrowing until March 16, 2017, leaving the next fight to Obama’s successor. It also raises spending levels above the 2011 Budget Control Act, increasing funding by $80 billion through September 2017.
It also includes changes to entitlement programs, including avoiding a premium hike for many Medicare enrollees and bolstering funding for Social Security’s disability trust fund.
With the deal headed to Obama’s desk — where he’s expected to sign it — lawmakers will now turn their attention to passing either 12 individual spending bills or one large omnibus bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to move spending bills earlier this year, but he was blocked by Democrats who wanted a larger budget deal.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged that his party would cooperate going forward, as long as Republicans don’t “mess up” the appropriations process.
“We’ll be happy to support next year individual appropriations bills coming to the floor. We don’t need motions to proceed,” he said from the Senate floor.
“We’ll be happy to move the bill as long as we get rid of those vexatious riders that have nothing to do with the bill brought before us.”
Mitch McConnell, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz