The Senate approved a two-year, $2.7 trillion dollar budget deal on Thursday that lifts strict caps on spending by hundreds of millions of dollars and raises the nation’s borrowing authority -- known as the debt ceiling -- a rare bipartisan agreement crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin that kicks the delicate issues past the 2020 election.
The vote was 67-28 with 23 Republicans defecting even though President Donald Trump has urged them to vote yes.
It was a “hold your nose and vote” kind of move for many Republicans, with even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly labeling the budget deal the “Trump Administration-Speaker Pelosi” agreement in recent weeks, an attempt to put an arm’s length from the proposal which required – and received -- GOP leadership backing.
“Given the exigencies of a divided government we knew any bipartisan agreement on funding levels would not appear perfect to either side,” McConnell told his colleagues Thursday, adding, “But the administration negotiated a strong deal.”
Republican leaders, with an assist from President Trump who made phone calls, pressed wavering Republicans for their support.
The deal passed in the House earlier this month over the wide condemnation of budget hawks who are also normally staunch Trump supporters – leading to the defection of 132 Republicans or more than two-thirds of the conference. In the Senate, GOP leaders – with Trump – worked to avoid the same kind of embarrassingly-lopsided vote.
The skyrocketing deficit, made worse by this deal, has many Republicans wary of a backlash as the party departs from a balanced budget orthodoxy strictly adhered to for decades.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sought unsuccessfully to amend the budget deal with a provision to cut and cap spending while also introducing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget over 10 years.
“Today is the final nail in the coffin. The Tea Party is no more,” Paul said Wednesday referring to the conservative movement that swept fiscally-conscious Republicans into office in 2010, noting that the national debt now stands at $22 trillion and counting with record deficits also piling up.
“The budget monstrosity, the deal, the abomination,” Paul said, will have “no restraints” on spending, Paul decried, adding, “We should not spend money we don’t have…I will vote against this budget deal.”
The agreement on the top-line spending numbers should make it easier for Congress to finish the appropriations process, putting the government on a path to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September.
The deal prevents automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, from taking effect under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The agreement between then-President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, including then-deficit hawk congressman and current Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, meant to rein in federal spending is now set to expire in 2021.
“This legislation means jobs…and this legislation lays the groundwork to preserve the full faith and credit of the United States,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “The final piece to this puzzle is the Senate’s stamp of approval.”
“To allow the debt ceiling to go up an infinite amount, as much as Congress can possibly spend and borrow, over a nearly two-year period is fiscally irresponsible and has never been seen in our history,” Paul said to his colleagues Thursday. “This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we've done in the history of the United States,” Paul said. [10:38]
The legislation now heads to the president’s desk for his promised signature.