Policy

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Overcomes Key Senate Test

The bipartisan budget agreement is officially on a glide path to enactment.

The deal will provide appropriators with top-line spending levels just a bit above $1 trillion for each of two years while dulling the blade of the sequestration ax.

The package easily cleared the 60-vote threshold to limit debate, 67-33, with a dozen Republicans joining Democrats to cut off a potential filibuster: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.

"This bill isn’t exactly what I would have written on my own, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chairman Ryan would have written on his own. It’s a compromise — and that means neither side got everything they wanted, and both sides had to give a bit," Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Tuesday morning.

She hammered out the deal with lead House negotiator and Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. The two have lobbied for the deal to get the needed votes in both chambers.

"If we didn’t get a deal, we would have faced another continuing resolution that would have locked in the automatic cuts — or worse, a potential government shutdown in just a few short weeks," Murray warned.

A budget agreement alone doesn't entirely rule out the possibility of another CR, though appropriators such as Murray will be working with staff to avoid that.

The House vote last week was rather lopsided, with a total of 332 members voting in favor.

The relatively small number of Senate Republicans backing the cloture vote can be attributed to several factors, including opposition to military pension changes criticized by veterans groups.

A number of GOP senators, led by Roger Wicker of Mississippi, drafted an amendment to the deal to block those changes, but since the deal between Murray and Ryan was baked, there will be no such amendments.

“These proposed cuts represent a broken promise to those who have voluntarily chosen to serve our nation in the military,” Wicker said in a Monday statement. “This is not a matter of nickels and dimes for our retired and active-duty troops. It is unfair to ask the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States to shoulder the full weight of these cuts. It is not too late for Congress to keep its promises to our military personnel."

When the final vote is called later this week, the deal may get even fewer Senate Republicans voting in support, but that's in large part because as the minority party they can afford to oppose it, scoring political points without the risk of setting the stage for another government shutdown.

Topics: budget