U.S. Senate approves its first budget since 2009
By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, March 23, 2013 6:38 EDT
The US Senate reached a milestone early Saturday when it overcame partisan gridlock to approve its first budget resolution in four years, setting up a political duel with the Republican-held House.
The sweeping plan for fiscal year 2014, the first budget blueprint passed by the Democrat-led Senate under President Barack Obama since 2009, squeaked by by the narrowest of margins, 50-49. [...]
The plan, shepherded by Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray, seeks nearly $1 trillion in new revenue over the next decade, mostly through the closure of tax loopholes that favor the wealthy, and an equal amount in reductions to government spending.
The House of Representatives on Thursday adopted its own budget resolution, which seeks to reach balance within 10 years through significant reductions in federal spending, the overhaul of entitlements like Medicare and the repeal of Obama’s health care law.
The glaring partisanship of Congress ensures that neither plan will be enacted into law. Instead they will serve as the starting points for a broader debate this year over budget policy.
- 100 amendments were voted on in a marathon, 13-hour session known in the Senate as a “vote-a-rama.
- The parties’ leaders contended with more than 560 filed amendments. Most fell by the wayside and were not voted on, but there were key amendments that were approved, including a repeal of an unpopular tax on medical devices that was enacted as part of “Obamacare.”
- Senators also went on record in support of the Keystone Pipeline.
- Joining all Republicans voting no were four Democrats who face re-election next year in potentially difficult races: Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., did not vote.
- The Senate’s budget would shrink annual federal shortfalls over the next decade to nearly $400 billion, raise unspecified taxes by $975 billion and cull modest savings from domestic programs.
- They also voiced support for eliminating the $2,500 annual cap on flexible spending account contributions imposed by Obama’s health care overhaul.
- [They voted] for charging regular postal rates for mailings by political parties, which currently qualify for the lower prices paid by non-profits.
- In a rebuke to one of the Senate’s most conservative members, they overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to cut even deeper than the House GOP budget and eliminate deficits in just five years.
- Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget claims $4 trillion more in savings… by digging deeply into Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programs for the needy. It would also transform the Medicare health care program for seniors into a voucher-like system for future recipients.
- They voted in favor of giving states more powers to collect sales taxes on online purchases their citizens make from out-of-state Internet companies.
- Shoehorned into the package is $100 billion for public works projects and other programs aimed at creating jobs.
NEXT UP: this summer’s hostage crisis.