WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a budget deal that increases spending on defense and domestic programs and lifts the debt ceiling, but several Republican senators balked at adding $2 trillion or more to the federal deficit.
The Bipartisan Budget Act, backed by President Donald Trump, passed 67-28, with Republicans voting against it and nearly all Democrats supporting it. The House passed the bill last week 284-149, with two thirds of Republican lawmakers voting no.
Trump is expected to sign the act into law, a deal that increases discretionary federal spending for military and domestic programs and lifts the limit on the government’s $22 trillion debt for two years, allowing it to borrow to pay off its obligations.
With Senate approval, lawmakers and the administration will avert any potential government shutdowns by disgruntled deficit hawks and will scrap a $125 billion automatic cut in spending from a 2011 budget law as they face the 2020 presidential campaign and election.
The vote put fiscal-minded Republicans in an uneasy position, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday emphasized that the bill avoids an 11 percent cut in defense spending and instead increases it by $22 billion for 2020.
And McConnell reminded his Republican caucus members of an important backer of the deal — Trump, who with his administration negotiated the deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Pelosi won a $27 billion increase in non-defense programs.
“This is the agreement the administration has negotiated. This is the deal the House has passed,” McConnell said as he urged his colleagues to vote for the deal. “This is the deal President Trump is waiting and eager to sign into law.”
Shortly after McConnell made those remarks, Trump tweeted, “Budget Deal is phenomenal for our Great Military, our Vets, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! Two year deal gets us past the Election. Go for it Republicans, there is always plenty of time to CUT!”
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) forced the Senate to vote on his amendment cutting spending, instituting new budget caps and requiring Congress to send the states a balanced budget Amendment for ratification before it can raise the debt ceiling.
Assailing the lifting of the debt ceiling cap, Paul said, “This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we've done in the history of the United States. The federal government is currently spending nearly $2 million every minute. Don't let anybody fool you. This is a spending problem. The annual deficit this year will exceed $1.2 trillion.”
The Senate, however, rejected Paul’s amendment, 70-23.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed the end to mandatory spending caps called a sequester that has limited how much Congress could appropriate for all non-mandatory spending in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“For too long the arbitrary, draconian limits of sequester have prevented us for military readiness. This deal ends the threat of sequester permanently,” he said. “The sequester hamstrung our ability to make investments in the middle class for eight years. No longer, thank God.”