Breaking down the Senate’s cloture vote on the budget compromise

The U.S. Senate agreed Tuesday to proceed to final debate on a bipartisan budget agreement, the next-to-last step before sending the two-year spending plan to President Obama for his signature.


House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) discuss their agreement with reporters last week on Capitol Hill. (AP)

The procedural step required at least 60 votes to succeed, and senators easily surpassed that margin. Here's the tally:

Final tally: 67 to 33

How many members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted to proceed?: 55

How many Republicans voted to proceed?: 12

How many members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted against cloture?: 0

How many Republicans voted against cloture?: 33

How many senators didn't vote?: 0

Votes Notes: Any concern about the budget agreement clearing this procedural hurdle was erased Monday when five Republicans signaled they would vote to end formal debate and proceed to a vote on final passage. They were joined by seven more on Tuesday morning.

The dozen Republicans voting to proceed were Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Susan Collins (Maine), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio).

The group includes the usual collection of Republicans who've been willing to join with Democrats this year to continue moving legislation through the Senate -- especially Alexander, Collins, Flake, Hatch, McCain and Murkowski. The most notable "yes" vote was Johnson, a fiscal conservative who hails from the same state as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan is held in high regard by fiscal conservatives in the House, and they credited him last week for brokering a fair, if less-than-desirable, spending agreement.

Johnson also plans to vote "yes" on final passage of the budget, but other Republican senators who voted to proceed Tuesday will not, including Alexander, Chambliss and Flake. Immediately after the cloture vote, Alexander said in a statement that he would vote against the budget because "it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending. Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions, and the air transportation system."

Even if senators vote no, they will be able to say that they voted to proceed to final debate in the interest of avoiding more congressional gridlock and causing another government shutdown.

It's one of the beauties of serving in the Senate -- senators can tell voters that they voted for congressional productivity -- something Americans are desperately seeking -- but still vote against the actual proposal.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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Sean Sullivan · December 17, 2013