Senate could start series of budget votes on Friday evening

The Senate could start a series of votes on the 2014 budget on Friday night.

ADVERTISEMENT
The body is currently making its way though 50 hours of debate on the first Democratic budget resolution to reach the floor in four years. The full 50 hours will expire at 7 p.m. on Friday.

If senators cannot agree to shorten the debate, amendment votes would begin then. A GOP aide said that the party might be willing to move up the time, but that is not yet certain. 

Once debate begins, senators can offer a virtually unlimited number of amendments to the budget at a simple majority threshold. 

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 127 amendments to the budget, most of them from Republicans. Many of the GOP measures will be intended to inflict political damage on Democrats.

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has already offered a motion that would simply support balancing the budget. The Senate Democratic budget does not project a balance, and voting against the Sessions amendment, which does not say only spending cuts need to be used, could be treacherous for vulnerable Democrats.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will offer an amendment to strip out reconciliation instructions in the budget to the Senate Finance Committee that require $975 billion in new revenue to be raised. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was known to be opposed to the instructions because he wants greater freedom to design a tax reform bill. That could make the amendment vote tough for him and other centrists up for reelection in 2014. 

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) is also offering an amendment that would withhold the pay of White House budget officials for every day that the president's budget is late. President Obama was supposed to submit his budget by Feb. 4 under the law, but it is now set to come out April 8.

Under a law passed in January, members of Congress will see their paychecks withheld after April 15 if their respective house of Congress does not pass a budget.

And Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is offering amendments that would call for the end of the requirement in the Obama health overhaul that employers offer health insurance, end a medical device tax in the health overhaul, and stop attempts to relax work requirements for welfare recipients. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Final votes on the budget, authored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would likely come early Saturday after a marathon session. 

The Senate budget would stabilize the growth of the debt by 2023 using nearly $1 trillion in revenue. Murray says the budget has an equal amount of spending cuts, but the budget turns off $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts already slated to go into effect. If this is accounted for, the budget adds spending. 

The House on Thursday passed a budget by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on a 221 to 207 vote with no Democrats in favor. Ryan's budget cut $5.7 trillion in spending to balance by 2023.

There is little hope that once this week's votes are over that Congress can reconcile the two divergent documents. 

—This post was updated at 2:08 p.m.