After an all-night session known as a "vote-a-rama" in the U.S. Senate, the Republican-controlled chamber passed a budget bill early Friday morning that Democrats, all of whom voted against it, decried as a "disaster" for the economy and the American people. Outside critics were quick to assail the budget, which would cut federal spending by $5.1 trillions over ten years, as a preliminary blueprint for dismantling key programs of the nation's social safety net while immediately gutting other key public services such as education, healthcare, and transportation projects.
"This GOP budget is fundamentally unfair to the middle class. Americans deserve better." —Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island)According to the Associated Press:
The vote was 52-46 after a marathon session lasting until after 3 a.m. The House approved a slightly different version Wednesday night on a similar party-line vote.
Next up are compromise budget talks between the two houses, after which lawmakers will begin writing legislation to translate the non-binding plan into specific proposals that are likely to spark a struggle with President Barack Obama.
The Senate blueprint envisions about $5 trillion in spending cuts, and an overhaul of the tax code as well as repeal of the health care law.
Democratic leaders, according to the New York Times, say the budget likely to emerge from a conference between House and Senate Republicans will be nothing short of a "disaster" for the country.
"The only good that is coming out of this series of votes is that we are getting a good picture of who stands with ordinary Americans and who doesn’t, who is committed to making the economy work for working people and who are beholden to the interests of Wall Street and right-wing ideologues." —Isaiah Poole, Campaign For America's Future"Today," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), "Senate Republicans chose to give corporations and millionaires tax breaks and kickbacks at the cost of American middle class families and seniors. We know that providing tax breaks for big corporations is a losing strategy for Americans who work hard but struggle each day to put food on the table, save for retirement, and send their kids to college."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who voted against the final bill, criticized his Republican colleagues for voting down an amendment that called for an increase to the federal minimum wage while ultimately approving a budget that largely insulates corporations and the wealthy with disproportionately low tax rates while undermining programs that serve the middle class, low-income workers, and other vulnerable sections of the population.
Sanders' proposal would have raised the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to at least $10.10 an hour and eventually to $15 an hour, but only two of the 48 senators voting in favor of Sanders’ amendment were Republicans. All 52 opponents were Republicans.
"Apparently they believe starvation wages are good enough for millions of hard working Americans. I disagree. I believe nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty. Let's raise the minimum wage to a living wage," Sanders said afterward.
In addition, on the subject on ongoing federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry provided for in the Republican plan, Sanders tweeted:
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 26, 2015
In response to the overall GOP budget, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) voiced his dissatisfaction by tweeting:
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) March 26, 2015
As Reuters notes, the GOP-approved budget seeks to eliminate U.S. deficits by 2025 without raising taxes by inflicting deep cuts to social safety net programs, investments in transportation and education and other domestic programs.
Meanwhile, the budget would dramatically boost defense spending by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account, and would also continue to offer continued increases to core Pentagon programs year after year.
Tweeting its condemnation, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said Sen. Sanders' critique of the GOP's fiscal agenda hits the nail on the head:
— SEIU (@SEIU) March 25, 2015
The marathon voting session leading up the budget's final passage allowed any senator to submit an amendment for consideration, thus creating the spectacle known as "vote-a-rama," which Isaiah Poole, communications director at the Campaign for America's Future, said reveals much while achieving little. As the process was underway Thursday, Poole observed:
The only good that is coming out of this series of votes is that we are getting a good picture of who stands with ordinary Americans and who doesn’t, who is committed to making the economy work for working people and who are beholden to the interests of Wall Street and right-wing ideologues. As Republicans posture for the 2016 elections, senators will increasingly make themselves sound as if they care about the plight of working people and are prepared to do something about it. But it is important to remember that when they had opportunities to say with their vote that they are prepared to do something concrete to create jobs, ensure women get equal pay, that college is affordable or avert damage from climate change, they turned the other way.