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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 13, 2013. Support for a compromise two-year budget deal grew on Monday ahead of a Tuesday vote in the Senate as Republicans concluded that a measure that achieved overwhelming bipartisan support in the House could not die in Congress's upper chamber. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

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With new GOP support, budget deal headed for Senate OK

  • Article by: JONATHAN WEISMAN
  • New York Times
  • December 16, 2013 - 9:16 PM

 

– Support for a compromise two-year budget deal grew ahead of a Tuesday vote in the Senate as Republicans concluded they could not allow a measure that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support to die in Congress’ upper chamber.

Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia announced their support for the measure Monday, appearing to give it more than the 60 votes it would need to overcome a filibuster threat and bring it to a final vote, which would need only a majority. The three joined four other Republicans — Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — who have said they will vote to cut off debate.

“This agreement isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, and it isn’t what I would have written. But sometimes the answer has to be yes,” Hatch said. “The reality is that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government.”

Isakson cited a return to the normal budgeting process and a desire to avoid another government shutdown in announcing his support for the measure.

The budget deal, struck by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., sailed through the House last week but ran into a toxic mix of re-election politics, presidential positioning and hurt feelings in the Senate.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, held a rare session on Sunday to formally file to end debate on the measure. Business groups, such as the Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executive officers of the largest U.S. corporations, pressed Senate Republicans to get on board, countering conservative pressure groups that oppose the deal.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Speaker John Boehner worked behind the scenes to win support from Senate Republicans.

And with a public showdown looming, undecided Republicans opted Monday to come down off the fence. Even some Republicans who had privately signaled opposition last week were coming around, convinced a deal that passed the House 332-94, with a strong majority of Republicans behind it, could not be derailed in the Senate.

“Much more work needs to be done to address the number one drivers of our country’s debt — our entitlement programs. But my hope is that this budget agreement paves the way to greater stability, lasting deficit reduction, and the political will to tackle those challenges in the near future,” Hatch wrote in a statement.

Under the budget deal, spending on defense and non-defense programs would rise from the $967 billion slated for this fiscal year to $1.012 trillion, mitigating the impact of across-the-board spending cuts and allowing congressional lawmakers to draft detailed spending plans for the first time in several years. Spending in fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1, would rise from $995 billion to $1.014 trillion. Though total spending would rise $63 billion over 10 years, the measure would trim the deficit slightly.

Opponents had seized initially on the notion that immediate spending increases would be more than offset by savings spaced over 10 years, with much of that savings in 2021 and 2022.

But some Senate Republicans have now pinned their opposition to $6 billion in cuts to military pensions — cuts that have incensed some veterans groups.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, all Republicans, will bring military families to the Senate on Tuesday to protest the cuts. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, complained of “a real hit to military retirements,” and said the measure did not do enough to reduce the deficit.

But Ryan has defended the cuts as extremely modest.

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