Senate Budget panel approves first spending blueprint in three years

The Senate Budget Committee on Thursday evening approved its first budget in three years and, as expected, the 12-10 vote came down right along party lines. 

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The fiscal blueprint produced by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) makes modest cuts to the federal deficit over the next decade and contains $975 billion in tax increases by ending tax breaks for corporations and wealthier individuals. 

Murray explained that she is asking wealthier taxpayers and bigger businesses to chip in a little more to "make critical investments to get economy going again."

The budget also proposes $100 billion in stimulus spending for road and bridge construction and repairs, school repairs and worker training.

It is headed for Senate floor next week -- the first time the full Senate will consider a budget since 2009. 

The budget blueprint reflects $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. But when the sequester cuts are turned off, Murray’s budget appears to reduce deficits by about $800 billion, using the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline. 

Ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) argued that, by his math, Democrats only cut $300 billion over 10 years, a figure soundly refuted by Democratic lawmakers and their staff, who argued that the replacement package to pay for the sequester over the next nine years should count toward the total. 

Spending increases slightly under the plan because of Democrats' call for the full restoration of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, which are required under a 2011 budget law put into place when lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on a broader deficit-reduction package. 

The committee agreed, on voice vote, to an amendment by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would freeze congressional salaries, which are $174,000 a year, for every year a budget deficit is expected. At this point, that would run through this budget window of 10 years. 

During the nearly 12-hour markup, Republicans chided Democrats for producing a budget that neither included any deficit reduction for next year nor balanced the budget within the next decade. 

Murray and President Obama have argued that they don't want to choose an arbitrary year to reach balance out of concern that damage could be done to the fragile economy by spending cuts that are too deep. Instead, they have said they want to focus on growing the economy, which would help decrease budget deficits. 

The only break came around lunch time, when senators headed to the floor for a couple of votes on a continuing resolution and so Senate Republicans could meet with President Obama, who wrapped up three days of visits to Capitol Hill this week. 

Late Wednesday, the House also approved is budget, also along party lines, with an entirely opposite approach.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget achieves balance in 2023 with $4.6 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years with major cuts to entitlement programs and the federal workforce. 

When compared with the CBO baseline thought, the Ryan budget would balance in 10 years without raising taxes and by reducing spending over the next decade by $5.7 trillion.

That measure is set for consideration on the House floor next week. 

— This story has been corrected to reflect that the Senate Budget Committee approved its first budget in three years. A previous version contained incorrect information.

This report was updated at 8:45 p.m.

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