Senators voted 52-46 on the fiscal year 2016 budget resolution after a nearly day-long session that began Thursday morning and stretched well into early Friday, with lawmakers considering more than 50 individual amendments and a package of noncontroversial measures, part of a process colloquially known as the “vote-a-rama,” following three previous days of debate in which senators had agreed to 11 proposed amendments.
Among the nearly 30 amendments approved by senators on Thursday and Friday were measures to roll back the estate tax and provide “middle class tax relief,” as well as a pair of amendments seeking to block a carbon tax and removing a block on highway funds for states who don’t submit implementation plans for proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Democratic lawmakers saw several of their proposed amendments pass, including a proposal to expand access to paid sick days for workers, as well as a measure seeking to recognize same-sex marriage for the purposes of Social Security and veterans’ benefits, with 11 GOP senators joining the minority in that vote.
The rejected measures included two proposals to increase defense spending beyond the increases already set out in the budget, a measure to increase the federal minimum wage, and moves to cut clauses written into the resolution that would slash more than a trillion dollars in federal Medicaid and Medicare funding over the next decade.
Further, senators rejected a bid to close purported tax loopholes related to “offshoring,” presumably to leave the proposal for a more comprehensive tax reform effort.
The Senate’s final vote came after the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved its own proposed budget plan in a largely party-line vote, after a single day of debate which saw it consider only a limited series of proposed amendments, including alternative budget plans put forward by progressive and conservative caucuses.
House lawmakers took up only one amendment, proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., seeking to remove the requirement that $20 billion of $613 billion in proposed defense funding be made contingent on finding offsets elsewhere in the budget — publicly criticized by several GOP lawmakers as making that funding effectively illusory — and then adding an additional $2 billion in defense funding.
The Senate budget plan provides about $1.16 trillion in discretionary funding for FY16, with mandatory funding bringing total spending up to around $3.8 trillion.
Over the long term, it seeks to eliminate the federal deficit and reach a planned surplus in 2025, through about $5.1 trillion in spending cuts spread across a variety of both discretionary and mandatory federal programs — including the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act — with the exception of defense spending, which would be ramped up.
The House plan is similar, although more aggressive in its planned cuts and intended timeline to eliminate the federal deficit, with $5.5 trillion in planned cuts to reach a surplus beginning in 2024.
While the two chambers’ budget plans — which are subject to further reconciliation — do not actually implement any specific spending measures, they are meant to be used by appropriators as a guide when setting down FY16 appropriations bills later this year.