Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate Republicans Hold Fate of Obama's Next Grand Bargain Push

Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate Republicans Hold Fate of Obama's Next Grand Bargain Push

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama heads to the Midwest this week to return his vision for the economy to prominence ahead of this fall's revived combat with Congress over the budget. How much of a head start he'll get in shaping the standoff with Republicans will be known before his first speech.

The president is headed to Knox College in Illinois on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Senate will take its first key vote on appropriations for the coming year. It's very possible that just enough Republicans will break with their party leadership to form a coalition with the Democrats against the tight discretionary spending caps called for in the sequester.

The vote is about whether to break an initial filibuster and allow the first floor debate of the year on a fiscal 2014 appropriations bill, which most Republicans oppose because its $54 billion grand total would be 10 percent more than what the sequester is now allowing to be spent on transportation, housing and community development -- and 15 percent more than what the House intends to spend.

As my colleague Niels Lesniewski has reported, Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to abandon the customary strategy for moving spending bills in times of tight budgets, which is to seek relatively easy victories at the outset for the politically popular bills -- covering defense and veterans programs -- and hold off on the more polarizing domestic and social policy measures until the end.

He's essentially challenging the GOP, from the outset, to cast votes that show their readiness to cancel the sequester so that both guns and butter can be funded at levels that don't require such deep cutbacks.

And it looks as though he's close to getting his way. Reid would need six GOP votes to break the filibuster, a strong suggestion of willingness to abandon the budget caps. There were six Republicans on Appropriations who voted to send the bill to the floor: Susan Collins of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mark S. …

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