Senate Approves Budget Deal That Spares Federal Pay and Benefits

Architect of the Capitol

The Sen­ate passed a two-year budget deal and raised the debt ceil­ing in the early hours of Fri­day morn­ing, send­ing the com­bined le­gis­lat­ive pack­age to Pres­id­ent Obama’s desk just five days be­fore the na­tion hits its debt lim­it.

The le­gis­la­tion, which was craf­ted in a month-long ne­go­ti­ation between Obama and the top four con­gres­sion­al lead­ers in­clud­ing now-de­par­ted Speak­er John Boehner, passed on a 64-35 vote over the ob­jec­tions of con­ser­vat­ives and pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Rand Paul’s shenanigans.

Fri­day morn­ing’s vote takes some of the pres­sure off of the Re­pub­lic­an-held Con­gress as mem­bers head in­to an elec­tion year. It puts off an­oth­er debt ceil­ing crisis un­til March of 2017 and the two-year $80 bil­lion-plus budget deal will give con­gres­sion­al ap­pro­pri­at­ors some dir­ec­tion as they craft bills to keep the gov­ern­ment open and op­er­at­ing through Sept. 2017.

But the lat­ter task is not com­plete for now. The gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent fund­ing ex­pires on Dec. 11 of this year, giv­ing Con­gress just over a month to pass new le­gis­la­tion and avoid a fed­er­al shut­down. That ef­fort will be led by Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, who has pushed throughout his ten­ure as lead­er for a re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der and hopes to avoid passing an­oth­er slap­dash short-term fund­ing bill that would main­tain cur­rent spend­ing levels; and new House Speak­er Paul Ry­an, who will hardly have warmed the speak­er’s gavel in his hand be­fore hav­ing to turn to the of­ten time-con­sum­ing pro­cess of writ­ing and passing ap­pro­pri­ations bills in or­der to meet that Decem­ber dead­line.

The Sen­ate bill passed only after an awk­ward back and forth between Mc­Con­nell and the man he en­dorsed for pres­id­ent—fel­low Ken­tucky Sen. Paul—sub­sided.

Paul vowed re­peatedly this week—in­clud­ing twice dur­ing the course of Wed­nes­day night’s pres­id­en­tial de­bate—to fili­buster the budget deal that Mc­Con­nell him­self help to ne­go­ti­ate.

But he missed his op­por­tun­ity on Wed­nes­day, as Mc­Con­nell filed clo­ture to end de­bate on the bill. Paul, at the time, was in Col­or­ado for a pre-de­bate rally. Mc­Con­nell’s move to file clo­ture in his ab­sence meant that the bill would come to a vote re­gard­less of what Paul did, his only gam­bit would be to pre­vent it from get­ting 60 votes to move for­ward—votes that were already there be­fore he re­turned to Wash­ing­ton from Boulder on Thursday.

Paul did speak on the Sen­ate floor for about 20 minutes on Thursday af­ter­noon to re­gister his op­pos­i­tion to the bill, end­ing by ask­ing for the un­an­im­ous con­sent of all sen­at­ors to take up his own bal­anced budget le­gis­la­tion—a key part of his pres­id­en­tial plat­form—but that move earned an ob­jec­tion from Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ron Wyden.

“This is sup­posed to be the body of de­lib­er­a­tion,” Paul said on the Sen­ate floor Thursday. “We’re sup­posed to be able to de­lib­er­ate over how we’re go­ing to fix the coun­try. … I will vote no and I will con­tin­ue this fili­buster as long as there are enough votes here to al­low it to con­tin­ue.”

With that, Paul left the floor and took to both tele­vi­sion and Twit­ter where he asked sup­ports to “Stand With Rand” by en­cour­aging their sen­at­ors to vote against clo­ture and kill the budget deal.

But by 1 a.m. a cadre of tired sen­at­ors look­ing for­ward to a typ­ic­al three-day week­end sided with Mc­Con­nell, vot­ing in sup­port of the budget and debt ceil­ing deal he’d worked out with Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, the White House and House lead­er­ship.

The House and Sen­ate will re­turn to Wash­ing­ton on Monday.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec