At 3:28 a.m. today, the U.S. Senate finally ended their work day by approving the Republican’s budget bill in a 52-46 vote.
After listening to hundreds of proposed amendments from lawmakers in the so-called “vote-a-rama," the final vote showed no Democratic support for the GOP-led legislation. Two prominent Republicans, 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and potential 2016 candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) sided with their Democratic colleagues to vote no.
The U.S. House of Representatives, also led by Republicans, passed their own budget on Wednesday (Mar. 25). Since there are numerous differences in the two pieces of legislation, both houses will have to come together to negotiate a final deal. If the negotiations succeed, it will be the first budget passed by Congress since 2005, when the Republican Party was last in control of Congress.
The Senate bill proposes cuts of $5.1 trillion over the next decade, including “an end to the Affordable Care Act; a Medicare system transformed, with vouchers for older adults to purchase private insurance; Medicaid and food stamps cut back drastically and turned over to the states; and a simplified tax code with a far lower top income tax rate,” reports The New York Times.
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Among the amendment proposals was Sen. Paul’s idea to raise the nation’s defense spending by $190 billion over a two-year period. It was defeated overwhelmingly, by a vote of 4-96.
Next was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), another 2016 presidential contender, who proposed raising military spending, but did not provide a figure or a cap at which it should halt. Once again, senators voted it down 32-68.
Surprisingly, there was bipartisan support on many issues, including approval for an amendment that requires up to seven days of paid sick leave for employees, a win for Democrats. Republicans were also able to pass an amendment that would require an increased awareness of any higher taxes due to Obamacare, and another amendment that halts taxes on carbon emissions, despite climate change becoming more of a controversial topic.
The Senate unanimously passed an amendment that would add sanctions to Iran if the hostile nation rescinded on current negotiations between their nation and the United States over halting their nuclear energy program.
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Senators also passed an amendment, 54-46, that would repeal the federal estate tax.
Democrats won approval of an amendment that would allow same-sex couples to receive Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits. Six Republicans voted for the measure.
Discussing the upcoming talks between House and Senate Republicans on their two different budgets, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) seemed quite optimistic.
“For the most part, I don’t sense it’s impossible," he told The Hill. "I’ve always thought that fundamentally their ideas are good and supported them. I think that’ll be the mood of most people here."
The House budget aims to balance the nation’s costs by cutting $5.5 trillion in spending over a nine-year period. Both budgets aim to remove Obamacare, possibly a starting point for members of Congress to negotiate.
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