Senate Agrees to Vote on Budget Plan; NDAA Vote Perhaps Wednesday

Senate Agrees to Vote on Budget Plan; NDAA Vote Perhaps Wednesday

The Senate agreed this morning to a procedural measure that clears the way for a vote on the compromise budget deal approved by the House last week.   Separately, a vote on the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act could occur as early as tomorrow.  They are the last two major pieces of legislation expected to clear Congress this year.

The budget deal negotiated by House and Senate Budget Committee chairs Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) sets overall federal spending for FY2014 at $1.012 trillion, half way between what the House and Senate each passed earlier in the year, and eases cuts required under the sequester.   Members of both parties oppose the compromise — Republicans because it does not cut spending enough, Democrats because it does not extend unemployment benefits — but there was a sufficient number of Senators to surpass the 60-vote threshold needed to bring the bill to the floor for debate:  all 53 Democrats, two Independents who typically vote with Democrats, and 12 Republicans, for a 67-33 vote.    Thirty hours of debate are allowed for the bill, but it is expected to pass easily, since only 51 votes are required for passage, and the final vote could come much earlier.

Once the budget is approved by both chambers (it does not need to be signed by the President although he signaled that he supports it), the appropriations committees still must craft the 12 regular appropriations bills so they fit under that limit.   The hope is for those bills, probably merged into a single Omnibus Appropriations measure for consideration by the House and Senate, to be approved by January 15 when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires.

The other major bill many members hope to finish this year is the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act, maintaining a 51-year streak of passing the defense bill despite whatever political situation exists in Washington.    House and Senate Armed Services Committee chairs Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) worked out a compromise last week that passed the House.  Senate agreement is expected.

The budget and NDAA agreements were negotiated by the relevant committees and brought to the House and Senate on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.    With time running out on 2013, no amendments were permitted on the House floor and none will be permitted in the Senate, since any changes would require the bill to return to the other chamber for approval.  The House already has left for the year, so the Senate needs to adopt the bills as is or delay action until 2014.  Weary of fighting and the “do-nothing Congress” label, enough members are willing to accept less than perfect bills to move legislation forward.


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