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March 27, 2015

Posts in "Budget"

March 27, 2015

Senate Budget Passes as Vote-A-Rama Wraps (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:20 a.m. | The Senate approved the GOP’s budget blueprint on a 52-46 vote following an epic vote-a-rama that featured dozens of test votes on everything from carbon taxes to Social Security benefits for same-sex marriages.

Two Republicans eyeing the White House voted no: Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but otherwise the vote was along party lines.

“By passing a balanced budget that emphasizes growth, common sense and the needs of the middle class, Republicans have shown that the Senate is under new management and delivering on the change and responsible government the American people expect,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

“The Democrat-led Senate for years refused not only to pass a balanced budget, but any budget at all. Those days are over, and the proof is passage of a balanced plan with ideas that Congress’ nonpartisan analysts tell us would boost jobs, raise income and drive economic growth,” the Kentucky Republican added.

There were moments of drama, like two vulnerable GOP senators up in 2016 switching their votes to “yes” to back paid sick leave, giving it 61 votes.

Senators even voted to nix their own health insurance benefits on a 52-46 vote around 2:30 a.m. — a vote David Vitter of Louisiana has been seeking for nearly two years, much to the consternation of many of his colleagues.

Earlier the Senate Republicans eyeing the presidency jostled for position on war funding. Full story

Vitter Amendment Rears Its Head in Wee Hours of Vote-a-Rama (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Vitter knows he has better leverage on must-pass legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:47 a.m. | Sen. David Vitter won a small victory in the wee hours Friday, resurrecting his amendment to end employer-provided health benefits for members of Congress.

Fourteen hours into the vote-a-rama, 52 senators voted to approve the Louisiana Republican’s proposal. It came first in a series of seven votes wrapping up the marathon session. The nonbinding vote marked Vitter’s latest salvo in an ongoing crusade against congressional enrollment in Obamacare.

“This amendment would say no, we’re going to live by that statute. We’re going to go to the exchange for our health care. No special subsidy, no special deal, and it would also apply to the president, the vice president and their political appointees,” Vitter said, making clear it wouldn’t pertain to congressional aides.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., refuted the idea of there being anything special about getting a health care subsidy.

“Today every single senator is treated like every single person in the country who works for a large employer. Those large employers all make a contribution to their employees’ health care,” Boxer said. “Now colleagues, you do not have to take that employer contribution. If you don’t want it, give it back.”

Boxer added she assumes Vitter pays his subsidy back to the Treasury Department.

One Democrat, Michael Bennet of Colorado, who faces the voters in 2016, joined Vitter, while three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dan Coats of Indiana — voted no.

Coats announced this week he won’t seek reelection.

As part of his crusade, Vitter has tried to attach the amendment to all kinds of legislation, including a low profile energy efficiency measure. But the senator, who wants to become governor of Louisiana, has learned he has the best leverage with must-pass measures like the budget.

Vitter also tried taking on the House of Representatives, asking Speaker John A. Boehner to help him get information on Congress’ small-business exchange applications. So far, House officials have shrugged off his request, writing it off as an attempt to score political points.

Niels Lesniewski and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Related:

Rand Paul Proposes Higher Defense Spending — If It’s Paid for

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Vote-a-Rama Presents Political Peril for Vulnerable Incumbents

Start Preparing Now for the Budget Vote-A-Rama

Democrats Outline Floor Strategy for Budget Battle

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

What Senators Read About During Vote-a-Rama: Iran Deal

One of Iran’s most notable former diplomats, the ex-spokesman for the nation’s nuclear negotiation team, wrote the most popular book spotted on the Senate floor during the annual vote-a-rama. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 12:50 a.m.
Budget, Iran

March 26, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Benefits Endorsed on Senate Floor (Updated)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:22 a.m. | The Senate endorsed Social Security and veterans benefits for married gay couples Thursday night in a 57-43 vote, with 11 Republicans joining every Democrat.

The amendment slowed down the vote-a-rama, with a group of Republicans huddled in the well and at times talking to sponsor Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The nonbinding amendment to the budget resolution still falls short of the 60 votes needed to beat back filibusters in the chamber. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:46 p.m.
Budget, LGBT

Live, On Periscope, From the Vote-a-Rama

Moran and Thune were live on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Moran and Thune on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

For a pair of Republican senators, the budget vote-a-rama seemed like a great time to demonstrate they aren’t luddites.

Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Jerry Moran of Kansas teamed up to shoot a brief video using the Periscope live-streaming app to share with their constituents (and all of the Internet) what the Senate is doing on what will be an exceptionally long night.

Full story

Deal on Kirk’s Iran Amendment Leads to Unanimous Vote

Mark Kirk Bowe Bergdahl Taliban video

Kirk (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As evening approached in the Senate’s budget vote-a-rama, lawmakers found some common ground on Iran. A 100-0 vote followed.

Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., and Banking Committee ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio ultimately teamed up on an amendment designed to make it easier to punish the Iranian regime with revived and new sanctions in the event the president can’t certify Iran is complying with any agreement.

Full story

Bill Nelson: Don’t Censor ‘Climate Change’ (Video)

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson used the annual Senate vote-a-rama to dis Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s alleged ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”

Nelson has an amendment pending aimed at blocking federal agencies from censoring speech related to climate change. It would set up a procedural hurdle to Senate consideration of any future legislation that censors a federal agency’s use of climate change science.

Nelson called it “common sense” to protect those terms during a Thursday morning speech. “But we have all read news reports at the state level, at the local level, maybe even at the federal level that, indeed, some folks are trying to muzzle scientists from speaking about the science involving the oceans, the atmosphere, climate and the weather.”

Full story

Vote-a-Rama Minute-by-Minute

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The moment you’ve been waiting for — the (sort of) annual Senate vote-a-rama — is here. A whole host of CQ Roll Call reporters and editors are tweeting out details during the marathon voting session, which you can read below. Scores of amendments are expected to get votes, with final adoption of the Senate GOP’s budget expected early Friday morning.

Hundreds of amendments have been filed, and the only limit to the voting time is exhaustion, aided by the powerful jet fumes of a pending recess.

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Vote-a-Rama Presents Political Peril for Vulnerable Incumbents

Start Preparing Now for the Budget Vote-A-Rama

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Rand Paul Backs More Defense Spending — If It’s Paid For (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:14 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t have a problem with increasing the defense budget, but he wants real offsets.

And the Kentucky Republican, who seems to be gearing up for an April 7 announcement about a run for the White House, proposed an amendment to the budget resolution just before the Senate adjourned Wednesday to do so.

“This amendment is in response to others in both chambers who are attempting to add to defense spending — some way more than Senator Paul’s amendment — without paying for it. Senator Paul believes national defense should be our priority.  He also believes our debt is out of control,” Paul senior adviser Doug Stafford said in a statement.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:01 p.m.
2016, Budget, Politics

Freshman Senator: Pay for Obamacare Replacement With … Obamacare

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 08: From left, Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., attend a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup in Dirksen Building on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, January 8, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cassidy, center, a freshman senator and Louisiana doctor, has a different spin on replacing Obamacare than most Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Bill Cassidy, the freshman senator from Louisiana and a doctor, has been pushing fellow Republicans in his first few months in the Senate to embrace an alternative to Obamacare — one he predicts will insure more people without mandates.

And he even says he has a way to pay for it: Obamacare. Full story

March 24, 2015

Senate Ditches Obama Budget; Plan Earns Only 1 ‘Yes’

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans and Democrats soundly rejected Obama’s budget plan on Wednesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., joined the very short list of members of Congress who have cast “yes” votes on President Barack Obama’s budget proposals Wednesday evening, when the Senate rejected a budget alternative based on the $4 trillion blueprint unveiled by Obama in February.

Ninety-eight senators voted against the motion to take it up, following a pattern set in recent years by Republicans trying to force Democrats to go on the record voting against the White House spending plan. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 7:01 p.m.
Budget

March 23, 2015

At Liberty, Ted Cruz Speaks to the Faithful (Updated)

Ted Cruz announced his bid for the presidency at Liberty University on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:01 p.m. | LYNCHBURG, Va. — The Senate’s longest week kicked off some 180 miles southwest of the Capitol, with a presidential campaign announcement by one of the chamber’s conservative firebrands, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Timed to the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, Cruz made an explicitly religious and sharply conservative pitch to an enthusiastic audience dominated by thousands of Liberty University students.

By the end of the week, all of the potential presidential candidates will have a chance to make their mark thanks to the Senate budget resolution, and dozens of votes, hitting the floor for the unpredictable vote-a-rama.

Here in Lynchburg, Cruz’s record of big fights — and big legislative losses — on defunding Obamacare, rolling back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration or opposing raising the debt limit — were a call to arms, not a record of failure.

Cruz suggested if millions of like-minded conservative voters get out and vote in the next election, his vision of America will come true.

“Roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting,” Cruz lamented, then asked his audience repeatedly to “imagine” a different world where they vote, and, presumably, he wins.

“Think just how different the world would be. Imagine: instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth,” Cruz said. “Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:33 a.m.
2016, Budget, Ted Cruz

Democrats Outline Floor Strategy for Budget Battle

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders, foreground, and Schumer briefed reporters on their response to the GOP budget last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate and House Democrats face different challenges in responding to the budget blueprints on the floors of their respective chambers, but they’re operating from much the same playbook.

The budget resolutions, which both moved through the House and Senate budget committees last week with customary party-line support, are indisputably political documents, which will give each side fodder leading in to the two-week recess at the beginning of April.

In the Senate, Democrats intend to focus particular attention on “meat and potato” policy issues in this year’s budget vote-a-rama. That’s how Senate Democratic messaging guru Charles E. Schumer described the Democratic plan last week.

Full story

March 19, 2015

Lindsey Graham’s War Money Plan Wins Approval (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | The Senate Budget Committee’s agreed to boost funding in the budget plan for defense for the next fiscal year by $38 billion.

The committee backed an amendment offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. to bring the Senate plan in line with the expected eventual funding level in the House budget blueprint for Overseas Contingency Operations, the so-called OCO account.

Graham earlier in the day predicted the amendment would allow the budget resolution to get the votes necessary to advance through the Senate itself.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:28 p.m.
Budget, Policy

March 18, 2015

Graham, McCain Want More War Money in Senate Budget

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham and McCain, pictured here with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, are pressing to increase defense spending levels. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just as Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming was unveiling the Senate’s fiscal 2016 budget blueprint, a fellow Republican on the committee was announcing plans to try to increase the allowed defense spending.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the chamber’s loudest skeptics of sequestration  particularly for national security accounts  said he would attempt to increase funding for overseas contingency operations (the account that’s often shorthanded as “war money”) to the level in the House GOP budget. That plan features $94 billion for the war-related account. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5 p.m.
Budget

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