Following a day and an evening of debate and a “vote-a-rama,” the Democratic-controlled Senate early Saturday gave final approval to a budget resolution that differs starkly with the Republican-controlled House version, setting up months of coming clashes over spending bills.
After senators had prepared some 400 amendments, only a few dozen were brought to a recorded or voice vote, leading up to a 50-49 vote for final passage that broke down largely along party lines, with four Democrats voting against it.
The Senate’s fiscal 2014 budget matches nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts with revenue hikes of equal value and protects federal workers' pay levels and retirement benefits. Backers said it would achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction during the next decade.
The debate -- which offered a preview of the political and fiscal strategies of both parties -- brought in everything from Republican efforts to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act to efforts to prevent tax increases. Unlike its House counterpart passed on Thursday, the Senate budget would reverse sequestration.
“I am disappointed that instead of moving toward compromise and a truly balanced approach to tackling our economic and fiscal challenges, House Republicans decided to double down on the failed policies that the American people rejected just a few months ago,” said Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., who managed the floor debate on the nonbinding resolution. “The pro-growth budget being debated in the Senate today offers a responsible path toward a balanced and bipartisan budget deal.”
Ranking Budget panel member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the Senate budget does not address the debt. “It never balances,” he said. “We need to stop shielding government bureaucrats, which is what is hurting people. When Democrats raise taxes, they’re enriching that bureaucracy at the expense of the people.”
Republicans continued their effort to offer amendments to further shield the Defense Department from sequestration, with Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., saying “We’re not sure all the cuts under sequestration are actually doing the cutting, and some cuts will cost more.”
They also targeted specific agencies for what they characterized as waste. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, blasted the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration for its “inexcusably poor financial management of the Jobs Corps over the past two years.”