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WASHINGTON — Conservatives’ last-ditch effort to stop a budget deal failed because a dozen Republicans broke ranks with the majority of their party in the Senate.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John McCain, R-Ariz., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., all voted in favor of ending debate on the measure, on Tuesday morning.
Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rand Paul, R-Ky., all voted against the legislation.
The vote means the budget deal hammered out by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., is a near-certainty to become law.
Many conservatives opposed the deal because it increases spending in the short run and only promises to cut spending in the long term.
Cruz called it a bad deal that “spends more, taxes more, and funds Obamacare, with no Republican amendments and no input from Senate Republicans.” He also called it “more of the same D.C. deal making that doesn’t fix our problems or help the people.”
Tuesday’s key vote wasn’t on the budget itself, which will require only 50 votes to pass. Conservatives needed to prevent at least 60 senators from voting to end debate. That would have allowed conservatives to stall the bill indefinitely with a filibuster, and effectively kill it. But, with the help of the 12 Republicans, senators voted to end debate on the bill by a tally of 67 to 33.
That means the $85 billion budget bill will almost certainly be approved Wednesday, when the final vote is taken.
The two-year deal is designed to remove the threat of a government shutdown before the 2014 elections.
The bill has divided the GOP between conservatives and establishment members, even though it was partially fashioned by Ryan, usually considered a conservative.
The bill was approved in the House of Representatives last week with a big majority, 332 to 94.
Many conservative organizations strongly opposed the bill package and had applied great pressure on Senate Republicans to stop it.
The bill would increase spending by $63 billion for 2014 and 2015 and eliminate some of the sequester cuts that conservatives want to keep.
Supporters claim the deal has no new taxes, but it raises airline security fees from $2.50 to $5.60 per ticket.
Most offensive, to many conservatives, it would cut pensions for federal workers and military retirees.
“My objection that moves me from undecided to a no is what this budget does to current and future military retirees,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “It breaks a promise. … We can find $6 billion elsewhere without breaking a promise.”
Cruz had already released a statement opposing the bill before Thursday’s House vote, noting that under the sequester, Congress took a small step forward by reducing spending by 2.4 percent, and suggested increasing that number while protecting the military from disproportionate cuts.
“Instead, this proposal undoes the sequester’s modest reforms and pushes us two steps back, deeper into debt. Supporters of this plan are asking for more spending now in exchange for minor changes that may possibly reduce spending later,” said the Texan.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, argued that sequestration may be far from ideal, but at least it forced Congress get serious about excessive spending.
The senator worried the Ryan-Murray deal would merely trade concrete spending reductions over the next two years for theoretical spending cuts a decade from now.
“In the meantime, the deal raises taxes on all air travelers, so that Congress can continue to ignore both waste in discretionary spending and the ticking fiscal time-bomb of our entitlement programs,” he said.
After President Obama signs the bill, negotiators will work out an omnibus spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year. To prevent another government shutdown, Congress will need to approve that bill in January.