Senate GOP Opposition Rising to Budget Deal

2:41 PM, Dec 13, 2013   |    comments
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Susan Davis, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON--A growing number of Senate Republicans say they will not support the bipartisan, two-year budget agreement, but it is unlikely they have enough votes to block its ultimate passage.

"My final vote will definitely be a no," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Friday. "The question for a lot of us is what do we do on cloture itself," he added.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a cloture vote-which allows a bill to come to the floor for a vote on final passage -for Tuesday, in which 60 senators must vote to end debate. Once that hurdle is cleared, Democrats will only need 51 votes to pass the budget deal hatched by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Democrats control 55 votes in the Senate, so final passage is essentially assured if they can secure at least five Republican votes to end debate.

Those five votes have not yet materialized, although GOP senators including Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they are considering supporting the agreement. "I'm inclined to vote for it," Collins told reporters Friday. "I do view it as a significant step forward."

Corker is part of a larger group of Republicans that have said they will oppose the bill. Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Roger Wicker of Mississippi are all publicly opposed, citing opposition to changes in the military pension benefit system and an increase in overall spending for the next two years.

At least seven additional Republicans are facing primary challenges next year, and they have either not yet announced their position, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or are opposed, like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The rising tide of Senate GOP opposition is unusual considering the wave of support for the deal in the GOP-controlled U.S. House, where it was approved on a 332-94 vote on Thursday, including 169 Republican votes.

Many Senate Republicans opposed allowing the spending cap to rise above $967 billion. The Murray-Ryan budget deal sets top-line spending figures at $1.012 trillion for 2014 and $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015. It also partially alleviates the sequester-unpopular across-the-board spending cuts-with other savings and non-tax revenues through new fees. It also modestly reduces the deficit over the next decade.

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., cautioned Thursday that Democrats are not certain they have the 60 votes they will need, but he was optimistic support would gel by early next week.

"We should not assume the outcome," he said, "But we should assume that all members of Congress in both parties hear the response of the American people to this final breakthrough in a bipartisan understanding. And as they listen, they'll join us in making this a bipartisan success on the floor of the House and Senate."

President Obama supports the agreement, which will eliminate the threat of another government shutdown for two years. McConnell has already pledged that there will be no more shutdowns.

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