WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats neared approval of their first budget proposal in four years on Friday, calling for almost $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade while sheltering safety-net programs targeted by House Republicans. The Democrats also would reverse automatic spending cuts that are beginning to strike both the Pentagon and domestic programs.
The nonbinding but politically symbolic measure caters to party stalwarts on the liberal edge of the spectrum just as the House GOP measure is crafted to appeal to more recent tea party arrivals.
As the minutes ticked past midnight into this morning, senators were casting vote after vote on a daunting stack of amendments. Many of the proposals were offered in hopes of inflicting political damage on Democratic senators up for re-election in GOP-leaning states such as Alaska and Louisiana.
Some $1 trillion in new revenue would flow to the government over the coming decade — on top of more than $600 billion in taxes on upper-income earners approved in January — and would be coupled with a net $875 billion in spending cuts. Those reductions would be generated by modest cuts to federal health care programs, domestic agencies and the Pentagon, and reduced government borrowing costs. The budget proposes $100 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects and job training programs.
The president will reveal his own overdue tax-and-spending plan in two weeks, a plan that will be judged in part by whether it offers new, more politically risky proposals that could form the foundation for a bipartisan agreement between the two houses.
Senators braced for dozens of votes during a marathon session running late on Friday, with some predicting a final vote on the Democratic plan in the pre-dawn hours today. In early voting Friday morning, Democrats rejected the latest attempt to repeal Obama's landmark health care law by a strictly party-line vote.
The Senate already has taken several politically freighted votes, including a move by Democrats to force a vote on the Paul Ryan House budget, which was rejected by a 59-40 vote Thursday night, with five Republicans joining every Democratic senator in opposition.
Republicans countered with a move by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., putting Democrats on record in opposition to balancing the budget by the end of the decade. It failed on a near party-line vote. Additional votes on featured forays into off-topics such as supersized soft drinks, domestic drone strikes, handguns and abortion — in addition to the more traditional subjects of taxes, spending and debt.
Such tallies give lawmakers the chance to test support for their ideas in the modern Senate, where there are far fewer opportunities to offer amendments and obtain votes.