CNN reports on ongoing process in the U.S. Senate ahead of a crucial vote on a two-year budget deal already passed by the House after a hard-won bipartisan agreement last week–an agreement that would take a number of thorny fiscal issues off the table ahead of the 2020 elections, but angering “down government in the bathtub” Republicans who object to anything other than cuts:
Bipartisan Senate leaders have agreed to limit debate on a long-sought budget deal — setting up a vote on the package, though as of Wednesday morning it’s not clear when they would vote…
GOP leaders are not giving passes for “no” votes and the goal is still to convince half or more of the conference to vote for the budget deal. Leaders want to avoid a show like the one in the House where there was a massive Republican uprising against the package negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and blessed by the President. Again, this bill is expected to pass (mostly with Democratic votes), but leaders want to stave off any surprises and want to make sure the President knows that his party is behind a top priority to raise the debt ceiling and stop automatic spending cuts on the defense budget.
And it’s not just congressional leaders. A GOP source close to the process told CNN that the President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper have made a small handful of calls to GOP senators to talk about the budget deal.
The situation is politically a little unusual, with the White House and leadership from both parties in the House and Senate trying to win over hard-line Republicans. The objections from dissenters are not new, and generally consist of the same talking points about “living within our means” that characterize any fight over spending regardless of the individual circumstances. The breakdown between ideological conviction and economic/political reality has repeatedly stymied effective GOP engagement on fiscal issues in recent years, going back to the government shutdowns under President Barack Obama and the fake fight over automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.
It’s a confusing situation, but you know who’s not leading? Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado up for reelection, said he is concerned “it’s just a lot of money and at some point, things become so free, we can’t afford it.” [Pols emphasis]
Once again, at a moment when Gardner could offer a clarifying vision in a fractious debate, he cops out with meaningless pablum. Yes, it’s “a lot of money”–but so were the huge tax cuts Gardner voted for that have contributed directly to this year’s trillion-dollar deficit. If Gardner votes against the bipartisan budget deal today, the only people he’s pleasing are a relatively small faction of hardcore “starve the beast” conservatives–not the MAGA hordes loyal to Trump, and certainly not the independent voters Gardner needs desperately and would rather see Gardner with the majority.
Gardner’s habit of equivocating until the last possible moment on votes may afford him some maneuvering space, but it deprives him of the opportunity to show leadership that could distinguish him in a state which has been rejecting Gardner’s party brand at the polls ever since he narrowly won his seat in 2014. If Gardner’s goal is to show “independence” from Trump after cementing a reputation as a Trump toady, this hard-won bipartisan budget deal is the worst possible way to do that.
We’ll update when Gardner decides which course is best for his career.