WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate voted to end debate Tuesday on the bipartisan budget deal that cleared the House last week, paving the way for final passage of the bill Wednesday.
Senate and House Budget committee heads Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., forged the deal over two months of negotiating. It would help avert another government shutdown for the next two years, but conservatives have criticized it for raising spending levels the next two years.
“Today the Senate voted to end debate on a bad budget bill that spends more, taxes more, and funds Obamacare, with no Republican amendments and no input from Senate Republicans,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “This is more of the same D.C. deal-making that doesn’t fix our problems or help the people.”
The bill needed 60 votes to end debate and it got 67, including the votes of 12 Republicans. All 33 votes against cloture came from Republicans, including each member of leadership.
Some GOP lawmakers voting to proceed will not vote for the final bill, but there is one notable exception: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a staunch conservative, said he intends to support the budget compromise.
“The budget deal struck by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray is no ‘grand bargain,’ but I credit Paul with understanding that a grand bargain is not possible at this point in time,” Johnson said. “Although I disagree with a number of provisions in the bill, on balance the good outweighs the bad.”
Conservative groups continued to assail the agreement because it raises spending by $63 billion over the next two years in exchange for $85 billion in budget cuts that will not take effect until the end of the 10-year plan. Many conservatives argue the $23 billion in savings, a drop in the bucket relative to the $17 trillion national debt, will never materialize.
Democrats, on the other hand, don’t like the federal pension reform and are unhappy the bill doesn't extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
“I understand where each side is disappointed,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. Cole, who served on the bicameral budget committee Ryan and Murray oversaw, told me the agreement was the best that could be achieved with a divided government.
Last week Cole predicted most or all Republican senators would vote against the budget deal, mostly because, as the minority, they don't have to vote for it. “Politically, the easiest vote is always no,” Cole said. “The [senators] running for president will not vote for it, but let’s not make it some principled stand.”