Senate Budget Committee Approves Conrad’s Blueprint, Derails GOP Proposals

Posted March 16, 2007 at 12:16pm

On a 12-11 party-line vote Thursday the Senate Budget Committee reported a five-year tax and spending blueprint offered by Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Prior to the vote, Conrad and his Democratic colleagues beat back several Republican proposals, ranging from means-testing the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to blocking non-pregnant adults from receiving funding from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Some amendments survived, including one by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to wall off $5 billion in discretionary defense funding for veterans’ medical care and addressing unforeseen equipment shortfalls for troops being deployed to a war zone.

Since the Budget Committee does not have the authority to dictate how other committees draft specific legislative language, the fate of the Graham amendment will ultimately be decided by appropriators.

The Budget Committee also approved bipartisan language establishing a reserve fund for mental health parity initiatives by voice vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had not finalized next week’s floor schedule at press time, so the timing of Senate action on the budget resolution was unclear.

Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman weighed in on the Senate’s budget Wednesday, voicing his concern that the blueprint does not address the unsustainable growth of entitlements. Asserting that “the entitlements issue is the biggest budget problem we face,” Portman noted that the administration has proposed “a downpayment on reform with savings of $96 billion over the next five years.”

While President Bush and Conrad have offered differing spending and revenue approaches that lead to a balanced budget by 2012, both of their proposals contain assumptions that some experts consider questionable. For example, the administration’s budget request proposes a one-year extension of alternative minimum tax relief, but does not account for any AMT revenue losses over the next four years since the White House assumes a revenue-neutral fix after fiscal 2008.

Conrad’s budget blueprint assumes a two-year extension of AMT relief while not adding to the deficit — a tall order in the eyes of at least one tax writer. According to Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, the prospect of his panel fully offsetting the projected $115 billion cost for extending the AMT hold-harmless language over two years is “very remote at best.”

Moreover, Conrad’s budget tracks the president’s supplemental funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Conrad has criticized the White House’s omission of war costs after fiscal 2009, the North Dakota Senator does not incorporate into his bottom line the supplemental spending likely to occur over the full five-year window.

Votes

The Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution by a roll call vote of 12 Yays to 11 Nays:

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad Y

Sen. Patty Murray Y

Sen. Ron Wyden Y

Sen. Russ Feingold Y

Sen. Robert Byrd Y

Sen. Bill Nelson Y

Sen. Debbie Stabenow Y

Sen. Bob Menendez Y

Sen. Frank Lautenberg Y

Sen. Ben Cardin Y

Sen. Bernie Sanders Y

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Y

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg N

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley N

Sen. Wayne Allard N

Sen. Mike Enzi N

Sen. Jeff Sessions N

Sen. Jim Bunning N

Sen. Mike Crapo N

Sen. John Ensign N

Sen. John Cornyn N

Sen. Lindsey Graham N

The following amendments were considered during the course of the markup:

1) Adopted by voice vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), co-sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) establishing a Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Health Information Technology.

This amendment provides fiscal support for the implementation of electronic health record systems.

2) Adopted by Voice Vote — An Amendment offered by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), co-sponsored by Stabenow and Feingold establishing a Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Mental Health Parity.

3) Adopted by unanimous consent — An amendment offered by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to improve the reserve fund for care for wounded service members.

4) Adopted by voice vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to establish a Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Long-Term Care.

The fund would help provide for long-term aide and “enhance the safety and dignity of patients,” while promoting quality care for patients.

5) Adopted by unanimous consent — An amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) to establish a Deficit-Neutral Reserve fund for enhancement of veterans’ benefits.

6) Adopted by voice vote — An amendment offered by Graham.

Graham’s amendment creates a $5 billion fund to be used “to address deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center” or other areas in which funding for troops and their equipment relating to the global war on terrorism may be insufficient.

7) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.).

11 Yays to 12 Nays

Allard’s amendment sought to reduce discretionary spending by $18 billion over five years mainly by using a program called Program Assessment Rating Tool, which rates a program on its effectiveness to determine if it should receive funding.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

8) Adopted by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and co-sponsored by Feingold to create a Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Health Care Reform.

If SCHIP is reauthorized, this bill will provide for additional funds to provide health care for uninsured and underinsured individuals.

12 Yays to 11 Nays

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad Y

Sen. Patty Murray Y

Sen. Ron Wyden Y

Sen. Russ Feingold Y

Sen. Robert Byrd Y

Sen. Bill Nelson Y

Sen. Debbie Stabenow Y

Sen. Bob Menendez Y

Sen. Frank Lautenberg Y

Sen. Ben Cardin Y

Sen. Bernie Sanders Y

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Y

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg N

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley N

Sen. Wayne Allard N

Sen. Mike Enzi N

Sen. Jeff Sessions N

Sen. Jim Bunning N

Sen. Mike Crapo N

Sen. John Ensign N

Sen. John Cornyn N

Sen. Lindsey Graham N

9) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to establish a Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Health Care Reform.

10 Yays to 13 Nays

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

Y

10) Adopted by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Kent Conrad, the “Save Social Security First” amendment

The chairman’s amendment requires that Congress correct Social Security’s long-term problems before considering enacting new tax-cuts, or new mandatory spending programs which would increase the deficit.

12 Yays to 11 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad Y

Sen. Patty Murray Y

Sen. Ron Wyden Y

Sen. Russ Feingold Y

Sen. Robert Byrd Y

Sen. Bill Nelson Y

Sen. Debbie Stabenow Y

Sen. Bob Menendez Y

Sen. Frank Lautenberg Y

Sen. Ben Cardin Y

Sen. Bernie Sanders Y

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Y

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg N

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley N

Sen. Wayne Allard N

Sen. Mike Enzi N

Sen. Jeff Sessions N

Sen. Jim Bunning N

Sen. Mike Crapo N

Sen. John Ensign N

Sen. John Cornyn N

Sen. Lindsey Graham N

11) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

This amendment provided for a point of order requiring a budget resolution that balances the budget within five years. The budget must be adjusted according to updated projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

11 Yays to 12 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

12) Failed by roll call vote — An Amendment by Enzi.

Enzi’s amendment would require a 60 vote minimum to pass legislation in the Senate that would impose unfounded mandates on small businesses. All legislation estimated by the CBO to cost more than $131 million in the private sector would be subject to this rule.

11 Yays to 12 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

13) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and co-sponsored by Gregg, Bunning and Graham to reduce the deficit and provide reconciliation instructions to the Finance Committee.

11 Yays to 12 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

14) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Ensign to protect defense funds from being used for domestic discretionary spending.

The amendments provides for a firewall around funds allocated for defense, which would require 60 votes to be removed, to prevent any defense funds from being used for discretionary domestic programs instead.

11 Yays to 12 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

15) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Gregg, Bunning, Graham and Allard.

Cornyn proposed a point of order against raising federal income taxes that can only be overcome by 60 votes.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

16) Passed by voice vote — An amendment by Cornyn to establish a reserve fund for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes an effective employment verification system.

Cornyn’s amendment proved a reserve fund to be used for aspects of comprehensive immigration reform: interior enforcement, an employment verification system and it’s implementation across multiple government agencies, increased border security, and improved information technology systems.

17) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Cornyn.

Cornyn’s amendment proposes reconciliation instructions to the Finance Committee and reduced spending for the next five years.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

18) Adopted by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Sanders.

Sanders’ amendment provides an additional $5 billion for the Child Care Development Fund to be used for child care entitlement to the states.

12 Yays to 11 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad Y

Sen. Patty Murray Y

Sen. Ron Wyden Y

Sen. Russ Feingold Y

Sen. Robert Byrd Y

Sen. Bill Nelson Y

Sen. Debbie Stabenow Y

Sen. Bob Menendez Y

Sen. Frank Lautenberg Y

Sen. Ben Cardin Y

Sen. Bernie Sanders Y

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Y

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg N

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley N

Sen. Wayne Allard N

Sen. Mike Enzi N

Sen. Jeff Sessions N

Sen. Jim Bunning N

Sen. Mike Crapo N

Sen. John Ensign N

Sen. John Cornyn N

Sen. Lindsey Graham N

19) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Cornyn.

Cornyn’s amendment to establish a Reserve Fund to Cover Kids First allocates money to SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, upon its reauthorization and the passage of programs to increase oversight. Cornyn’s amendment emphasizes providing health insurance to children below 200 percent of the federal poverty level to steer money towards the most needy. Cornyn claimed his amendment would “Put the ‘C’ back in SCHIP” by emphasizing the money be used for primarily for children.

11 Yays to 12 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici Y

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y

20) Failed by roll call vote — An amendment offered by Gregg.

Judd’s amendment would ensure that any tax gap revenues would be used to pay down the debt, as opposed to funding additional programs. Chairman Conrad was uncomfortable with allocating certain money for certain programs and opposed the amendment.

10 Yays to 13 Nays.

Democrats Y N

Sen. Kent Conrad N

Sen. Patty Murray N

Sen. Ron Wyden N

Sen. Russ Feingold N

Sen. Robert Byrd N

Sen. Bill Nelson N

Sen. Debbie Stabenow N

Sen. Bob Menendez N

Sen. Frank Lautenberg N

Sen. Ben Cardin N

Sen. Bernie Sanders N

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse N

Republicans Y N

Sen. Judd Gregg Y

Sen. Pete Domenici N

Sen. Chuck Grassley Y

Sen. Wayne Allard Y

Sen. Mike Enzi Y

Sen. Jeff Sessions Y

Sen. Jim Bunning Y

Sen. Mike Crapo Y

Sen. John Ensign Y

Sen. John Cornyn Y

Sen. Lindsey Graham Y