Democrats Looking for Just Five GOP Senators to Back Budget Bill

Saturday, 14 Dec 2013 11:17 AM

By Todd Beamon

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Lost in the din of the debate among Republicans over the controversial budget bill is the fact that only five GOP senators need to jump ranks to move the bipartisan measure forward.

With Republican opposition to the bill mounting, Democrats seem firmly in favor of the compromise bill forged by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said all 53 Democrats and two independents will vote Tuesday to end debate on the two-year spending bill, which passed the House Thursday on a 332-94 vote — paving the way for a final vote.

“I think it would be suicide if the Republicans didn't pass it,” the Nevada Democrat told Bloomberg Television Friday.

But tea party groups are pressuring GOP senators to reject the bill or potentially face primary challenges and angry constituents. And, 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats broke ranks with their respective leaders and opposed the measure. The deal was backed by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

But to end the debate on the Senate bill — or "cloture" — Democrats would need five GOP votes, though the final vote would require only 51 votes for passage.

Where would those five votes come from? Here are some of the senators seen as likely "yes" votes, according to news reports.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona

McCain has said he'd likely vote to end cloture on the bill.

“I’m not OK with it, but I think it’s better than shutting down the government,” McCain said Friday, according to Politico.

He has since, however, voiced concerns about the bill's proposed pension cuts to working-age military retirees.

Pensions for such retirees would be cut by 1 percentage point, through it would have a practical effect of cutting the payments by 20 percent over the next two decades, according to veterans groups.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee

Corker said he'd end debate on the bill, adding, "My sense is that the procedural issues could be overcome and there could be just" a yes or no vote.

However, the two-term legislator said he would vote against the bill because it raises spending.

“I appreciate the dilemma Paul Ryan was in, but I’m disappointed,” Corker told The New York Times.

“For three years in a row, Congress has spent less on discretionary programs than the year before.

"Unfortunately, the deal announced this week busts these budget caps without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs, so it violates the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine

Collins, who is in her third term, said she would vote to move the bill forward but that she has not definitively decided on whether she would support it.

“I will vote for cloture," she told Politico. "I’m still weighing [final passage] but I’m inclined toward it … The advantages of having a budget outweigh the reservations that I have."

In addition, Collins told The Hill that "I am concerned about the impact on the military retirees."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Murkowski, who was first appointed to the Senate in 2002, is viewed by Democrats as a potential supporter of ending debate on the budget bill.

The deal, she told Politico, “is weighing heavily on my mind as I leave the chamber on a Friday afternoon.”

When asked whether she would vote to move the legislation forward, she responded, "I might."

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona

McCain's colleague in the upper chamber has also said he'd vote to move the budget legislation forward, though he said he would block final passage.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina

The senator, who has served in the upper chamber since 2005, is likely to support ending debate, but not to back the budget deal, an aide told Newsmax.

Other GOP senators who have been mentioned as possible supporters of ending cloture — though they may not support the final vote — are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

The spending deal is opposed by the Senate's top three Republicans — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota — as well as Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Budget Committee.

They all contend the budget would increase the spending limits required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those sequestration cuts took effect in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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