It was an unsurprising outcome, but since Mitch McConnell held up the vote for days to ensure a majority of Republicans (unlike their House counterparts) voted for it, the 67–28 vote to clear a budget/debt-limit deal negotiated by Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave a bipartisan stamp of approval to a measure that made some people on both sides of the partisan barricades nervous. It doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a spending fight or even a partial government shutdown in the fall; specific appropriations bills, including one for Homeland Security that could trigger another clash over border-wall funding, still have to be worked out. But it does significantly reduce the odds of an autumn battle while taking the far more dangerous prospect of a debt-limit default off the table until mid-2021.
House Democrats supplied the bulk of the support for the deal in that chamber, but in the end, 30 Senate Republicans joined 37 Senate Democrats in pushing it along to Trump for his signature. Republican opponents included a lot of noisy conservatives like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. To show the eroding level of support for the once-sacred cause of fiscal discipline, only four senators united to give the old bipartisan thumbs-down to the measure on deficit and debt grounds, as Politico reported:
[Mitt] Romney and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) joined with Democrats Joe Manchin (West Virginia.) and Tom Carper (Delaware) in a joint statement asserting that “as former Governors, we were responsible for setting a budget each year that was fiscally responsible to fund our priorities. That’s why today, we, as U.S. Senators, cannot bring ourselves to vote for this budget deal that does not put our country on a fiscally sustainable path.”
Those were the sort of words that used to inspire mass genuflections from half the nation’s punditocracy. This time there were mostly yawns.
Certainly there has been little of the traditional, if highly hypocritical, carping about spending from the occupant of the White House. Despite his serial endorsements of the deal, no one will be 100 percent certain the deal is totally done until his signature is secured (particularly if it’s his budget director and acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who appears to have been pushed to the side by Mnuchin in negotiating the deal, is responsible for handing him the pen). But it looks like the requisite number of leaders in both parties are happy to punt further fiscal high jinks down the road and let 2020 voters decide what happens next. It’s just another item in the balance for the highest-stakes election anyone can remember.