Budget That Alarmed Conservatives Passes Senate

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate approved a $2.7 trillion budget deal Thursday that lifts caps on discretionary spending over the next two years and limits how much debt the government can take on.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., adjusts his glasses while speaking to the media after a weekly policy luncheon on July 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the agreement, having struck the deal with Congressional leadership last month. House lawmakers passed the deal a week earlier, and the Senate is set to break for a long August recess on Friday.

Ahead of this afternoon’s 67-28 vote, GOP opposition to the bill was significant, turning largely on the amount of new spending the budget deal would draw out of Washington.

In urging his party to support the deal, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cast it as the best agreement possible under the circumstances.

“Given the exigencies of divided government, we knew that any bipartisan agreement on funding levels would not appear perfect to either side,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “But the administration negotiated a strong deal.”  

Compared with current levels, the bipartisan deal bumps total-spending caps up $324 billion by 2021. It pushes defense spending to $738 billion in 2020, with nondefense spending rising to $632 billion the same year.

The deal does not impact spending on programs like Medicare and Social Security. Referred to as mandatory spending, the Congressional Budget Office projects these entitlement programs will run up tabs of more than $2.8 trillion in 2020.

The Treasury Department had warned the U.S. would be in danger of defaulting on its debt obligations by the end of the summer without an increase in the debt limit, but the agreement pushes off that possibility by lifting that cap until 2021. At the same time, the agreement averts mandatory spending cuts known as sequestration. Proponents of the deal say this move will smooth the path forward for the Congressional negotiators who must pass spending bills to fund the government.

President Donald Trump reiterated his support for the agreement on Thursday morning just before the Senate vote.

“Budget Deal is phenomenal for our Great Military, our Vets, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” Trump tweeted. “Two year deal gets us past the Election. Go for it Republicans, there is always plenty of time to CUT!”  

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., railed against the deal, calling it fiscally irresponsible and chiding Republicans who supported it. He attempted to add an amendment to the bill that would have limited total federal spending for the next 10 years and would have made a debt-limit increase contingent on a balanced-budget amendment being submitted to the states for ratification. The amendment fell 23-70.

Speaking to reporters Thursday after the vote, Senator Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, downplayed what he called the “political votes” of senators who opposed the agreement. He said he remains optimistic about lawmakers’ ability to pass appropriations bills later in the year.

“If we work in the bipartisan fashion that we saw today, we’ll pass the appropriations bills,” Shelby told reporters.

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