After an All-Nighter at the Capitol, Congress Sends a Budget to Obama

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House, Senate Prepare To Move $80 Billion Budget Deal
Photo: Bloomberg/© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP

The Senate finally passed a two-year, debt-limit-raising budget around 3 a.m. Friday morning, after a long night of speeches from the unhappy few who had no interest in voting for it — and a desire to make that antipathy known to potential Republican primary voters.

Since the House already passed the legislation, the budget will next head to the White House for the president’s signature. “This agreement is a reminder that Washington can still choose to help, rather than hinder, America’s progress,” Obama said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it reaches my desk.” Since this budget goes through 2017, Obama shouldn’t have to deal with too many spending battles for the rest of his term. However, that doesn’t mean another government shutdown is impossible. Congress has to figure out what to do with all of this money by December 11. Both parties are already preparing for battle. Conservatives would like to try and do away with Planned Parenthood funding or Dodd-Frank. Democrats are not interested. “The president, Pelosi, Reid, my entire caucus has agreed to hold hands,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told CQ Roll Call this week. “We are not going to approve anything that has all these ideological, short-sighted, crazy ideas; to do away with women’s health, to do away with clean air, to attack Dodd-Frank and all these. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to stick to that.”

In other words, we have a whole month of tranquility — thousands of news cycles — until the country has to worry about the next possible “political equivalent of a dumpster fire” striking Congress. 

The budget deal, which congressional leaders and the White House spent ages working on (that caused a few grumbles about secrecy and a process that “stinks” among even those who ended up supporting the bill), gets rid of a bunch of sequestration caps and lifts discretionary spending by about $80 billion over the next two years — something Obama really wanted. The spending hikes will also give a boost to defense programs — which helped the deal get a thumbs-up from Senator John McCain — and will be paid for in part by Medicare and Social Security changes and 58 million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve oil. Former House Speaker John Boehner had helped negotiate the deal, but had already absconded away from the Capitol and toward freedom by the time it passed in the Senate. He had already cleaned the dirty barn so there was no “you know what” left, and was no longer needed. 

Although the legislation had bipartisan support, there were plenty of people who hated it with a deep fiery passion, too — especially a few people running for president who could perhaps benefit from a bit of railing-against-the-government press. 

Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both gave long speeches that helped force legislators to stay up most of the night. Paul complained that he already missed sequestration. “This is the problem with Congress,” he said. “Congress will occasionally do something in the right direction and then they take one step forward and two steps back.” Cruz, never one to use one exaggeration when there is room in the sentence for three more, said his colleagues were handing Obama a “diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark Amex card. … It’s a pretty nifty card. You don’t have to pay for it, you get to spend it and it’s somebody else’s problem.”

Senator John Cornyn wondered why the pair thought it was a good idea to make these theatrical speeches when all the people who might have been tickled by them were probably asleep. “Maybe,” he said, according to the Washington Post, “they would decide it would be better to speak when people are actually paying attention.”