December 12, 2013
Senate Republicans by and large do not like the budget agreement very much, but despite their concerns, they expect it to pass both chambers and head to the president's desk, according to members and Senate aides.
The sticking point for members is that the agreement, brokered by budget cochairs Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, lifts the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, who this week got a high-profile primary challenger in Rep. Steve Stockman, said he's inclined to vote against the agreement. "I'm disappointed that some people are apparently willing to give up the spending caps for just more spending and no entitlement reform," Cornyn said. "That was always the deal most of us hoped for."
While they worry about the spending increases, members acknowledge that the bipartisan agreement, embraced by John Boehner and Harry Reid, gives Congress a chance to avoid another government shutdown.
"I don't think anybody on either side wants a government shutdown," said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who acknowledged that having a top-line spending figure, which the agreement will set for Congress, will make appropriating easier.
The conference is wary of torpedoing a deal before the House votes, in part, out of respect for Ryan, who's earned a sterling reputation among conservatives.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi hasn't decided whether he'll support the deal, but said he expects it to pass. "I know the position the speaker and Mr. Ryan have been placed in and so it takes two to tango," he said.
But, GOP Senate aides said, lawmakers realize it's politically dangerous to risk sabotaging the deal that avoids a shutdown.
"We'll see what the House does," said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who chairs the Republican Policy Committee. "I don't like the fact that it busts through the caps. At first blush, I don't support it."
Since the legislation is expected to come to the Senate as a bill, it will be subject to a filibuster, which means that barring any Democratic defections, Reid will need five Republicans to get cloture. Depending on the issue, a cohort of Republicans tends to coalesce to vote with Democrats on cloture, even if they go on to vote against the underlying legislation.
One member who's usually in that group is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who, according to her office, has yet to announce her view on the deal. But on Tuesday, Collins did not rule out the idea of breaking the caps to provide relief from sequestration.
"I'm open to the concept of substituting some reforms in mandatory spending in order to ease the impact of sequestration, particularly on the Defense Department," Collins said shortly before the agreement was announced. "But really I've got to wait to see what the details are."
December 12, 2013