Budget deal that could stave off shutdown ready for Senate vote
By Ted Barrett and Tom Cohen, CNN
A federal budget agreement that could prevent a government shutdown next year is expected to go for a vote in the Senate as early as Wednesday.
Final approval in the Senate requires a simple majority of 51 votes. Last week, the budget plan easily passed the House with a 332-94 vote.
President Barack Obama has already signaled his support for the plan, which was hashed out by the budget committee leaders in each chamber. The plan would guide government spending into 2015 and defuse the chances of a shutdown like the one that took place in October.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday showed 50% of respondents approving of the budget plan while 35% opposed it. According to the survey, a majority of Democrats and independents backed the proposal, while only 39% of Republicans liked it.
Some Senate Republicans have said the most important issue at the moment is to lower the budget deficit, even if only by a small percentage, and prevent further government shutdowns like the 16-day stoppage in October that proved politically damaging to the GOP.
Sen. Ron Johnson said he wanted “to make sure we avoid any additional government shutdowns.”
“The federal government does enough harm to our economy,” Johnson said. “We don’t need to add additional harm by this crisis management. In the end, this is not the kind of deal I would want to see. I’m sure it’s not the kind of deal Paul Ryan would want to produce.”
Conservative GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement that “sometimes the answer has to be yes.”
“Ultimately, his agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we can hope for,” he said of the plan.
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the budget committee leaders in both chambers, negotiated the deal.
Final congressional approval of the elusive budget agreement would mark a rare win for bipartisanship and a step up for a Congress infected with political dysfunction and held in low public esteem, with midterm elections less than a year off.
Democrats wary, too
While Democrats supported the bill, many had concerns.
More liberal senators — like Tom Harkin of Iowa — complained that an unemployment benefit extension was not included in the deal.
“There’s over a million people now who cannot find a job, out of work, and right at this time of year their unemployment insurance is being cut off,” Harkin told Radio Iowa last week. “It’s really unconscionable.”
The budget agreement, which was months in the making, eases spending caps for the next two fiscal years while softening the impact of across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, on defense and non-defense programs.
Overall, it calls for more than $20 billion in deficit reduction.
Current federal spending expires in mid-January, raising the possibility of another shutdown at that time if there’s not a new agreement in place to keep federal coffers filled.
The strong vote in the House on the budget plan on Thursday brought a collective sigh of relief among supporters, who initially thought it would sail through the Senate, where bipartisanship has been more the norm than in the sharply divided House.
But after reading details of the agreement, many Senate Republicans — including several in leadership positions — came out against the bill.
“I’d really like to stay within the (spending) caps,” complained GOP Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. “This busts the caps, and as a result, I’ll vote against it.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina complained that the plan reduces military benefits.
Three leading tea party-backed senators with 2016 presidential aspirations — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida — also have come out against the budget compromise for similar reasons.
CNN’s Dana Bash, Paul Steinhauser, Dan Merica and Holly Yan contributed to this report.
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