POLITICS

GOP-Controlled Senate Passes Massive 2-Year Spending Deal

The deal increases the debt ceiling and lowers the chances of a government shutdown later this year. But it does nothing to address rapidly rising deficits.

WASHINGTON ― After years of decrying deficits and debt, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a massive $2.7 trillion budget plan, 67-28, that will suspend the debt ceiling for two years and increase spending to both domestic and military programs.

Thirty Republicans ― a majority of the GOP conference ― joined nearly every Democrat in supporting the measure.

The deal, which also eases the path toward funding the government past Sept. 30, faced substantial opposition from conservatives in the Senate who objected to the increased federal spending levels. In a speech earlier this week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the deal “marks the death of the Tea Party movement in America.”

Paul added, “Today is the final nail in the coffin. The Tea Party party is no more,” referring to the self-proclaimed fiscal conservative movement that fiercely opposed spending increases during former President Barack Obama’s administration, even threatening a default on the nation’s public debt.

But Republican leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), lobbied hard to get a majority of their members to back the deal after about two-thirds of House Republicans opposed it last week, an embarrassing vote in the lower chamber that split the party despite President Donald Trump’s support.

“This is the agreement the administration has negotiated,” McConnell said on the floor Thursday morning, attempting to wash his hands of it. “This is the deal the House has passed. This is the deal President Trump is waiting and eager to sign into law.”

McConnell argued the budget deal was the best Republicans could do with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) controlling a third of the government. He touted its included $738 billion in military funding in fiscal 2020, and an agreement by both parties to avoid “poison pills” in future spending bills.

But this was not the view of most Republicans when Democrats controlled the White House and Senate in recent years. Then, they railed against Democratic-approved spending and demanded dollar-for-dollar spending cuts to offset any increases in federal funding.

Several vulnerable Republicans up for reelection next year opposed the measure, including Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. But others facing voters in 2020, like Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of GOP leadership, voted for it. 

Only five Democrats opposed the budget deal over concerns about the deficit: presidential candidates Michael Bennet of Colorado and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as Tom Carper of Delaware, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.

Several other presidential contenders did not vote, likely because of their appearance Wednesday night at the second Democratic debate in Detroit. Those senators included: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But while Thursday’s vote laid out spending guidelines for the budget over the next two years, lawmakers must still pass spending bills to fund the government ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline. They’ll have just 10 legislative workdays to do so after returning from summer recess next month.

This article has been updated with more details on the votes of particular senators.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Sen. Jon Tester’s first name as Joe.

CONVERSATIONS