McCain bucks party by objecting to restrictions on budget conferees

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked for the ninth time for unanimous consent to form a conference committee to work out the major differences between the House and Senate budgets.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected and asked Murray to modify her request to stop conferees from raising the debt ceiling.

“It’s now been 59 days that the opposition has tried to arrange a back room deal to raise the debt limit,” Paul said before objecting to Murray’s request.

McCain said that Republicans called on Democrats to return to regular order and pass a budget for four years and yet now some members want to restrict conferees in an “unprecedented” way. 

“What are we on my side of the aisle doing? We don't want a budget unless we put requirements on the conferees that are absolutely out of line and unprecedented," McCain said. "So all I say to my colleagues is, can't we after all those hours – I forgot what hour in the morning it was – after all those votes, after all that debate, after all that  discussion and we came up with a budget and now we won't go to conference. Why is that?”

McCain instead suggested that the Senate direct conferees to produce two reports — one on raising the debt ceiling and another on the budget — but Paul objected that that request.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined McCain in saying members of their own party are wrong to stop a budget conference.

“The fact is for the first time in years a budget was brought to the Senate floor,” Collins said. “We have called repeatedly for regular order in this body. Well, regular order is going to conference.”

McCain said it seems “ridiculous” that Senate Republicans are acting like they “don’t trust” that House Republicans who would serve on the budget conference would protect GOP fiscal values.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued that under reconciliation rules, Senate Democrats would be able to pass a budget with a debt ceiling increase with just 51 votes.

Murray pointed out that Cruz would be able to vote on the conference report and that the GOP-controlled House would also have to pass the same budget in order for it to become law.

“I ask the senator, does he expect that he would not be able to vote after the budget committee process,” Murray asked Cruz. “Does he understand the House would also have to pass this budget?

"By objecting to going to conference right now Republicans are putting us in a position that would force us to include an increase in the debt ceiling."

The federal government is expected to reach the debt ceiling this fall.

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