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Republicans pass a budget, flexing power of majority

Republicans pass a budget, flexing power of majority
 
Congressional Republicans scored a major legislative victory on Tuesday as the Senate adopted the first bicameral GOP budget agreement in a decade.
 
The 51-48 vote capped weeks of work by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who shepherded the blueprint through a messy debate over defense spending that at times threatened to split their conferences.
 
The blueprint passed the House last week, and will not require a signature from President Obama.
 
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Passing a budget, which is always a heavy lift, was particularly important for Senate Republicans, who are seeking to demonstrate their ability to govern in a difficult 2016 election cycle — they are defending 24 seats.
 
 
“No budget will ever be perfect, but this is a budget that sensibly addresses the concerns of many different members. It reflects honest compromise from many different members with many different priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor.
 
Still, the budget vote split the Senate’s GOP presidential hopefuls, with Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSasse statement: Trump nominee who spread conspiracy theories has a ‘tinfoil hat’ Coalition of 44 groups calls for passage of drug pricing bill For the sake of our democracy, politicians must stop bickering MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPentagon: War in Afghanistan will cost billion in 2018 Overnight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Rand Paul calls for punishment if Congress can't reach a long-term budget deal MORE (Ky.) voting against the agreement and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump must send Russia powerful message through tougher actions McCain, Coons immigration bill sparks Trump backlash Taking a strong stance to protect election integrity MORE (Fla.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Overnight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach MORE (S.C.) voting in favor.
 
Democrats, who voted in unison against the budget in both chambers of Congress, said Republicans would come to regret calling for trillions of dollars in cuts to federal spending.
 
"We know there's only one bit of good news. Our colleagues, when they're forced to actually put real numbers to these budget numbers in the appropriations process, won't be able to do it. They won't dare do it," Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is 'un-American' Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) said.
 
The White House signaled in statement Tuesday evening that the budget has no chance of getting Obama’s approval.
 
"The president has made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, nor one that reverses sequestration for defense – whether explicitly or through backdoor gimmicks – without also reversing sequestration for non-defense,” the White House said.
 
"There is bipartisan support for a commonsense deal,” the statement added. “The administration looks forward to working with Congress on an agreement that will allow us to invest in our economy and protect our national security."
 
The non-binding resolution approved Tuesday sets the top-line numbers that appropriators will use to craft 12 bills funding the government in fiscal 2016. The plan calls for balancing the budget in 10 years by cutting more than $5 trillion from spending.
 
Setting the stage for a clash this fall, Schumer vowed that Democrats would only support easing the budget cuts under sequestration if the legislation includes dollar-for-dollar increases in both defense and domestic programs.
 
“Those are bottom lines that unite our caucus, unite our caucus with the president, and there will not be a budget without it,” Schumer said.
 
House Republicans have already begun moving through a handful of fiscal 2016 spending bills that stick to the $1.017 trillion spending ceiling imposed under sequestration. Democrats say the spending levels simply aren’t high enough.
 
“It complicates them immensely because at a certain point, you just run out of resources for functions that I think Republicans deem critical,” said Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedWHIP LIST: Shutdown looms as Senate lacks votes to pass House spending bill Senators press Trump to boost school funding in infrastructure package Lawmakers, political figures share their New Year's resolutions for 2018 MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and an appropriator, on Tuesday.
 
“We’ve got to find a way to raise the caps,” added Reed, who alluded to the December 2013 deal reached by then-Budget chairs Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayLawmakers eye retirement help for gig economy workers Overnight Regulation: Labor Department reportedly hid unfavorable report on tip-pooling rule | NY plans to sue EPA over water rule | Senators urge FTC to probe company selling fake Twitter followers Trump's vows to take on drug prices, opioids draw skepticism MORE (D-Wash.), which relieved sequestration for two years.
 
Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems rip Trump's Fed pick as Senate panel mulls three key nominees Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans in Dodd-Frank overhaul MORE (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, told The Hill he’s not sure whether another deal to ease the spending caps will materialize.
 
“I think there is an appetite to make some strong progress on the budget through an agreement,” he said. “I think it’s possible, but I don’t know how to put odds on it.”
 
While the GOP budget sticks to the spending caps for both the Defense Department and domestic programs, Republicans are seeking a way around the limits by channeling billions of dollars to a “war fund” that is exempt from sequestration.
 
Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Hoyer: DACA deal a long ways off MORE (D-Ill.), an appropriator, said it’s “disproportionately unfair” to increase the Pentagon’s spending authority without boosting it for other agencies, such as the departments of Homeland Security and Veterans’ Affairs.
 
Asked whether President Obama would veto a defense bill at the Republicans’ proposed spending level, Durbin replied: “Counting on it.”
 
The White House has already threatened to veto the GOP’s first two appropriations bills, and has implied that the other 10 bills will meet the same fate.
           
That could leave Congress facing a new government shutdown fight in September, with a deadline of Oct. 1 for passing some kind of legislation to keep the government funded.
 
A shutdown fight would be risky for both sides, but would be particularly perilous for Republicans as they seek to retain control of Congress and win back the White House. The last shutdown fight sent the GOP’s poll numbers to historic lows, though the party’s brand recovered ahead of a historic midterm elections triumph.
 
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has expressed hope for a Ryan-Murray-type agreement on spending this year, and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE (R-Ohio) has said he’s open to a bipartisan agreement.
 
“If there's a way to reduce mandatory spending in a way that would provide relief to the sequester, like we did with the Ryan-Murray budget plan, have at it,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE said.
 
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP leader: Congress may settle for pared-down immigration deal Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Key senator floats new compromise for immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio), who is facing a tough reelection race next year, said it remains to be seen whether lawmakers can work together to find spending cuts and savings that can provide sequester relief. 
 
“It'd be nice to get it done soon. But obviously Sept. 30 is the key date.”
 
— Bernie Becker and Jordain Carney contributed.
 
- Updated at 8:34 p.m.