Senate Democrats unite to defeat balanced-budget motion

Senate Democrats stuck together on Thursday night to oppose a GOP floor motion that would have required them to rewrite their budget to make it balance.

The motion was defeated on a 46 to 53 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined with the united Republican Conference to support it.

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The motion to recommit was offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). It would have sent the budget back to the Budget Committee until Saturday with instructions to make it balance by 2023.

“Tonight the American people witnessed a remarkable and alarming event: the Senate’s Democrat majority declared they do not want to balance the budget, will not balance the budget, and will oppose any effort to balance the budget in any way," Sessions said after the vote.

The Senate Democratic budget does not project a balance, despite raising $975 billion in taxes and cutting an equal amount of spending using a baseline favored by Democrats.


“They can balance the budget any way they want to. They can raise taxes, they can cut spending,” Session said. 

“This motion would simply say this to our colleagues, 'Do you favor a balanced budget? Is it important to you? Have you said you’d vote for a balanced budget?' ” Sessions said. “A goal of balancing the budget isn’t just some frivolous goal — it will mean that we’ll put our government on a sustainable path.”

Sessions noted that some current Democrats have said they supported a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution in the past.

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His office sent out an email to reporters listing statements by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Manchin, Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

In fairness, some of these balanced-budget statements dated from the Clinton era, when the government was on track to rack up budget surpluses using higher tax revenue than today.

—This report was updated at 8:52 p.m.