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The Senate agreed Wednesday to an amendment expressing support for reducing the chamber’s budget by at least 5 percent for the rest of the fiscal year.
While the amendment itself would not cut the budget, the 98-1 vote signaled that the Senate is ready to make sacrifices. Later in the day, the chamber also adopted a resolution sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) with language similar to the amendment.
Congress has yet to complete a spending bill that would cover the remainder of the fiscal year, and the Senate is expected to clear a three-week continuing resolution Thursday to buy time for negotiations on the longer-term measure. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch and the amendment’s sponsor, said the cuts would apply only to Senate offices and not the Congressional support agencies, such as the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol.
However, the amendment states that “the offices and agencies that serve Members of Congress must be reduced along with the rest of the budget,” although it doesn’t attach a percentage.
“We’ll just try to figure out what it is going to be and how it is going to apply, but I suspect it is going to be across the board” among Members, committees and leadership, Nelson said. “I think we have to set a standard here and lead the way if we’re going to make other cuts.”
In reducing its expenditures, the Senate would follow the House, which voted to cut its own budget by 5 percent in January and has since followed up accordingly with reduced committee budget requests.
Although Wicker voted for the amendment, he took to the floor to remind his colleagues that he was the first Senator to propose a 5 percent cut, but his resolution was rejected in January, after the House vote. His second such resolution was adopted by unanimous consent Wednesday.
“I rise to agree with my colleague from Nebraska, to support his amendment and congratulate him on his newfound enthusiasm for this idea,” the Mississippi Republican said. “I commend the Senator from Nebraska for coming to this idea somewhat late, but support this amendment nonetheless.”
Although 5 percent is the target, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee’s ranking member, Sen. John Hoeven, noted that the amendment’s language states “at least 5 percent,” and he will seek to cut at least 2 percentage points more than that.
The House, the North Dakota Republican said, actually cut 7 percent from its budget, because the Judiciary and Appropriations committees absorbed cuts deeper than 5 percent.