After a grueling, 15-hour session, the Republican-controlled Senate managed to pass a budget plan – largely among party lines --that would, among other things, seek a path to repeal the Affordable Care Act, increase military funding and cut spending by $5.1 trillion over the next decade.
Approval of the spending plan, which is similar to the one the House passed earlier in the week, sets up what’s expected to be a showdown between the GOP-controlled Congress and the commander-in-chief.
Just after 3 a.m., senators passed the budget plan by a 52-46 vote. No Democrats voted in favor of the non-binding fiscal blueprint, but two GOPers eyeing the Oval Office in 2016—Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, broke from their party to vote against the measure.
Cruz, in a statement, congratulated the Senate for passing a budget for the first time in years. "However, given the gravity of the debt facing our children and grandchildren, I believe Americans expect us to do more. We need meaningful entitlement reforms, without budget gimmicks, and I cannot support a budget that claims to balance in the year 2025 by utilizing revenue increases generated by Obamacare taxes," he said.
Next, the House and Senate must come together and come up with an agreement to pull the two versions of the budget into a single piece of legislation, something they hope to do by April 15. During the process, lawmakers are likely to consider the use of “reconciliation,” which would allow for a filibuster-proof vote on legislation like Obamacare.
Republican Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi lauded the passage of the budget, which doesn’t raise taxes, saying in a statement that its approval “demonstrates that Congress is doing its part to deliver a healthy economy for everyone.”
Democrats – who wanted amendments to raise the minimum wage, mandate new campaign finance restrictions and increase student aid programs – panned the spending plan, arguing the $5 trillion in cuts is severe and neglects important domestic programs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, argued the budget benefits the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. He said he would push for more changes to the final version of the plan.
“The reality is that the American middle class has been shrinking steadily and there is nothing in here to address that,” he said.
The Senate on Friday adjourned for a two-week spring recess.