The Senate approved a Republican budget resolution just after 3:00 a.m. Friday morning in a 52-46 vote, capping a grueling day of floor work that required lawmakers to take sides on dozens of amendments.
 
 
 
 
Republicans could only afford three defections on the budget, since no members of the Democratic caucus supported it. That left GOP leaders with little margin for error as they sought to approve the plan, which calls for cutting $5.1 trillion from federal spending over 10 years.
 
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Still, the fight is far from over.
 
The House passed its own budget resolution Wednesday, which means that the two chambers will now have to form a conference committee to resolve their differences after the Easter recess.
 
Earlier Thursday, McConnell said the Republican budget delivers on the promises the party made in 2014, when voters returned them to power in the upper chamber for the first time in eight years.
 
“They called for change, and today, the Senate is delivering that change,” McConnell said.
 
The White House dismissed the Senate GOP budget in a statement released Friday morning. It said the budget relied on gimmicks and placed the burden of deficit-reuction on the middle class, seniors and children.
 
While passage of the Senate budget was expected, the votes of Cruz, Rubio and Paul remained a mystery for most of the day.
 
Cruz, the only Republican to formally declare his presidential candidacy, said he was still undecided before the “vote-a-rama” began.
 
“I’m still assessing it. I’m looking at it carefully and I’ll make a decision by the time the vote comes up,” Cruz said.
 
The spotlight was on the 2016 contenders throughout the "vote-a-rama," which gave all of them a chance to bring forward policy proposals that they could tout on the campaign trail later this year.
 
Paul, who faces skepticism in the GOP for his views on foreign policy, proposed an amendment to raise defense spending by nearly $190 billion over the next two years. The Senate refused to advance it, voting 4-96, with Cruz and Rubio both opposing it.
 
Rubio, along with freshman Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate confirms Rouse as Biden's top economist Scarborough tears into 'Ivy League brats' Cruz, Hawley for attacking 'elites' Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination MORE (R-Ark.), offered an amendment to bolster military spending, which failed in a 32-68 vote. Cruz supported the amendment and Paul voted against it. 
 
Graham, another Republican eyeing a run for the White House, voted for the budget plan. He was responsible for a provision that would increase war funding for the Pentagon to $96 billion. 
 
A deal to end the marathon session was reached after the Senate recessed shortly after 1 a.m., and Republicans huddled to discuss a way forward. 
 
The Senate came back into session about an hour later, after Democrats and Republicans culled hundreds of submitted amendments down to three more for each side. 
 
During the long “vote-a-rama,” senators from both sides of the aisle offered amendments that were intended to make members of the opposing party squirm, with some votes likely to become fodder for campaign ads next year.  
 
Many of the amendments proposed the creation of deficit-neutral reserve funds for certain issues, which would essentially serve as placeholders for later negotiations.
 
Democrats won approval on an amendment requiring up to seven paid sick days for workers, an issue that they believe could be potent in the 2016 campaign. Cruz, Rubio, Paul and Graham all voted against it.
 
Republicans, meanwhile, won passage of an amendment to increase awareness of any ObamaCare tax included in monthly insurance premiums, and another that would block a federal tax on carbon emissions. 
 
The Senate also unanimously adopted an amendment that backs imposing additional sanctions against Iran if the U.S. president cannot confirm that the Iranian government is complying with any future nuclear deal.
 
A proposal from McConnell was included that aims to prohibit the federal government from withholding highway funds from states that refuse to submit implementation plans for the EPA's clean power initiative. All 54 Republicans voted for it, along with red-state Democrats Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCentrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMurkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden On The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief MORE (W.Va.). 
 
Another amendment attached to the budget calls for repealing the federal estate tax.
 
Democrats won an amendment that would permit legally-married same-sex couples to receive equal access to Social Security and Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Eleven Republicans voted for it, including six up for reelection in 2016 — Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders 'stand down' to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal Study group recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (N.H.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrChamber of Commerce labels Biden removal of NLRB general counsel 'extreme' Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence MORE (N.C.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length MORE (Ill.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Senate GOP whip: Murkowski's vote on Tanden is 'fluid' at the moment MORE (Alaska) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOn The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (Ohio).
 
Passing budgets in both chambers is only the first hurdle for Republicans, who want to use the budgetary process to take on President Obama.
 
Their next challenge will be reaching a joint conference agreement on the budget, which Republicans haven’t done since 2005.
 
Republicans are determined to get a budget through, since it will not require a signature from Obama and could lay the groundwork for repealing the healthcare law in a deficit-reduction package later this year.
 
 
“For the most part, I don’t sense it’s impossible,” he said, adding that Senate Republicans have previously supported House GOP budgets from Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBoehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (R-Wis.).
 
“I’ve always thought that fundamentally their ideas are good and supported them. I think that’ll be the mood of most people here.”
 
If a joint conference agreement does pass both chambers, Republicans will be able to trigger a budget procedure known as reconciliation that could be used to target ObamaCare, reform the tax code and raise the debt ceiling, among other things.
 
Bills written under reconciliation rules cannot be filibustered in the Senate, freeing McConnell from the need to find Democratic votes.
 
While the two GOP budgets are similar, important differences could make it difficult to reconcile them. Enzi’s blueprint would balance in 10 years by cutting $5.1 trillion. The House budget, prepared by his counterpart Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), would balance in nine years by cutting $5.5 trillion.
  
Enzi’s plan doesn’t reform Medicare, but honors Obama’s request to find $430 billion in savings for the program. Price’s plan would partially privatize Medicare by converting it to a premium support system.
 
Both budgets would transform Medicaid into block grants. Neither plan offers a major overhaul to Social Security.
 
Despite the differences, parts of their two documents closely resemble each other in major ways, particularly on the push to repeal ObamaCare.
 
Both the House and Senate GOP budgets keep in place the spending limits known as sequestration that were imposed under a 2011 budget law. The Defense Department’s base budget in both blueprints is $523 billion, while the ceiling for non-defense domestic programs is $493 billion.
 
Just like the Senate, the House budget would approve $96 billion for the war fund next year — money that wouldn’t be subject to sequestration cuts.
 
There’s a caveat to the plan, however. In Enzi’s budget, a 60-vote point of order would be imposed against any spending bill that would increase the war fund above $58 billion. That means it would need a supermajority of 60 votes to win approval.
 
Altogether, the Senate budget would cut $4.3 trillion in mandatory spending over the next 10 years and $97 billion from discretionary programs.