The Senate was up until the early morning hours passing the two-year budget and debt ceiling deal in order to send it to President Barack Obama before the weekend. After 3 A.M. on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 with a vote of 64 to 35, with Republicans voting against the bill. The Senate needed to pass it as soon as possible because the debt ceiling needs to be raised before Nov. 3 or the Treasury Department said the country would default on its loans.
The Senate convened at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30, ABC News explained that the Senate had to wait to be able to meet for the bill. First, the majority leader has to present a cloture petition then only after two days then there has to be a cloture vote. After the House passed the bill Wednesday, Friday was the first option for the Senate to take up the measure. Then according to Senate rules, they have wait another hour after convening to actually vote on the bill, therefore they had to wait until 1 a.m. to vote to “end the debate” on the budget bill.
The bill passed after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tried to derail the vote with a speech against allowing President Obama to increase the national debt. Paul said on the Senate floor, “Both sides of the aisle have what I would call sacred cows. On the right, they have the sacred cow of military contracts. …The left wants more welfare. Should we give Congress more money? Hell no.” Despite his threats of a filibuster, his speech only lasted 20 minutes.
Republicans have been reluctant to vote for the bill that increased domestic program spending and raised the debt ceiling, which they consider a victory for President Barack Obama and the Democrats by increasing spending. All the 35 votes against the bill were by Republicans, two of them according to the Hill, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) “are facing tough reelection battles.” All the GOP presidential candidates in the Senate including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) voted against the budget deal, only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voted for the bill.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) also spoke out against the bill on the Senate floor, “The bill is the product of an unfair, dysfunctional, and undemocratic process – a process that is virtually indistinguishable from what we promised the American people a G.O.P.-controlled Congress would bring to an end.” Lee also said the deal “represents the last gasping breath of a disgraced bipartisan beltway establishment on the verge of collapse.”
The Senate leaders of both parties defended the deal they helped negotiate, and convince their party members to support the bill. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev admitted, “It’s not perfect…no legislation is. But this budget agreement accomplishes two major priorities that Democrats have long supported: It promotes economic growth by providing relief from … damaging cuts for two years. And it ensures that we invest equally in the middle class and the Pentagon.”
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. tried to convince the much more opposing and reluctant Republicans, “I share some concerns other colleagues have raised. But here’s the bottom line: This is a fully-offset agreement that rejects tax hikes, secures long-term savings through entitlement reforms, and provides increased support for our military.”
The two fiscal year budget increases defense and domestic spending by $80 million ending the sequester mandatory spending cuts, and raises the debt-ceiling limit until 2017. Defense and domestic program spending would be raised by $50 billion in fiscal 2016 and then increase those programs by $30 billion in fiscal 2017. It ends the spending cuts, and increases spending beyond the limits of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which was meant to reduce the growing deficit.
The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund would also cover $32 billion more in defense spending to be used specifically to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and continued military activities in Afghanistan. In total, there will be $112 billion in new spending. The debt ceiling will be raised until March 16, 2017.
The short-term spending bill funding the government will run out on Dec. 11 risking another government shutdown. Congress still has to pass an “omnibus funding bill” and separate appropriations bills, and controversy could still erupt if Republicans insist on controversial rider that irks Democrats. Reid speaking on the Senate floor promised the Democrats will pass those bills without controversial riders, “We’ll be happy to support next year individual appropriations bills coming to the floor. We don’t need motions to proceed. We’ll be happy to move the bill as long as we get rid of those vexatious riders that have nothing to do with the bill brought before us.”
The House passed the budget deal on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 28, 2015 with a bipartisan vote of 266 to 167 with all Democrats voting for the measure, but with less than a third of Republicans voting in the bill’s favor. The budget bill now goes to President Obama’s desk where he is expected to sign it.