By Alexander Bolton - 12/13/13 05:02 PM EST
The year-end budget deal is likely to pass the Senate next week even though few Republican senators have publicly backed it, leadership aides say.
A Senate GOP leadership aide said the budget pact’s prospects received a strong boost Thursday when the House passed it with more than 300 votes.
“I don’t have any reason to think it won’t pass,” said the aide. “The vote yesterday in the House that got 169 Republicans was a big vote.”
The final tally was 332 to 94, a strong rebuke to conservative groups such as Club For Growth and Heritage Action that had urged lawmakers to oppose it.
The Senate is scheduled to consider the legislation on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidIowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Nev.) on Friday predicted the bill would pass.
"Well, I would think it would,” he told Bloomberg Television in an interview. “I think it would be suicide if the Republicans didn't pass it.”
When asked if every member of the Democratic Caucus would vote for it, he said, "Yeah, we'll get our votes."
A source familiar with the thinking of Senate Democratic leaders said the overwhelming House vote ended any thoughts that Senate Republicans might have had about blocking the deal.
“If they had any thought of it, it was evaporated by the vote in the House,” said the Senate insider.
Senate Democratic leaders need at least five Republicans to overcome a 60-vote hurdle and move the legislation to final passage.
So far, only Sens. John McCainJohn McCainGroup hopes to have independent candidate by end of July Poll: Trump gets 1 percent support among black voters Cutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal MORE (R-Ariz.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenators press Obama education chief on reforms GOP senator: Trump endorsement could depend on VP Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund MORE (R-Maine) have said they are likely to vote for the deal.
"Although it is not the budget I would have written and I am concerned about the impact on the military retirees, I do consider it a significant step forward that will prevent us from continuing to lurch from crisis to crisis," Collins told reporters.
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeGOP senator: Trump could lose Arizona McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote MORE (R), McCain’s home-state colleague, said he would vote to end debate on the legislation but not for final passage.
Democrats need at least two more Republicans to end an expected filibuster against the deal, which reduces the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration by $63 billion over the next two years.
Democratic leaders could need to round up additional Republicans if they suffer defections within their own conference. A handful of Democratic senators, including Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood Ex-Sen. Landrieu joins law and lobby firm MORE (Ark.), a vulnerable incumbent, are wavering on the vote.
The top three Senate Republican leaders — Sens. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellBusiness groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal 'Never Trump' plots its last stand MORE (Ky.), John CornynJohn CornynLynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case WH defends Lynch from Clinton meeting fallout House to vote on gun legislation MORE (Texas) and John ThuneJohn ThuneCongress must resolve net neutrality once and for all Facebook offers set of 'Values' to reassure users of neutrality Overnight Tech: Groups grade Clinton tech agenda | Facebook activates safety check in Istanbul | Another holdup for location data bill MORE (S.D.) — have signaled they will vote against the package because it lifts spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Republican advocates of the military have pushed all year for the reduction or elimination of sequestration that would hit the military disproportionately next year.
But several pro-defense Republicans, such as Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteClean energy group backs two GOP incumbents Senator calls for pause in accepting Syrian refugees after Istanbul attack GOP Senate super-PAC reserves M in airtime MORE (R-N.H.), have balked at the deal because it would cut pension payments to military retirees.
Working-age military retirees would see their payments drop by 1 percentage point, which veterans groups say could shave their benefits by 20 percent over the next two decades.
To help with the whip effort, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinFight for taxpayers draws fire Gun debate shows value of the filibuster House won't vote on Navy ship-naming restrictions MORE (D-Mich.) released a statement Friday pledging to conduct a review of military pensions.
“We’re going to review this retiree pension issue as part of a review that we’re doing on benefits,” Levin said. “We will be reviewing this issue next year.”
“The budget, I believe, needs to be improved,” he said.
Even Republicans who usually vote for bipartisan deals on taxes and spending were slow to embrace the Murray-Ryan agreement.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiSenators seek state revenue sharing for offshore drilling Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund GOP senator praises Supreme Court's abortion ruling MORE (R-Alaska) on Thursday voiced concerns about pension reductions for federal employees and military veterans as well as reforms to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The deal would rescind funds in the SPR Petroleum Account and bar the government from accepting oil though the royalty-in-kind program.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a respected voice within the GOP conference on budget matters, came out against the deal Friday.
“I have maintained that any budget deal alternative to current law must preserve the taxpayer savings of existing law. The budget agreement does not accomplish this basic goal,” he said in a statement.
Several Democrats have threatened to vote against the agreement because it does not include extended unemployment benefits. But these liberal lawmakers are likely to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) end a GOP filibuster.
“I have not yet decided on the budget agreement,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDodd-Frank backers heap praise on GE Capital decision Clinton’s 9 most likely VP picks Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal MORE (D-Ohio). “I don’t want to leave town with unemployment insurance [unresolved]. Forty thousand people in my state lose their unemployment at the end of the year.”
Brown said he would vote for a cloture motion to set up a final vote, even if he votes "no" on final passage.
Sens. Tom HarkinTom HarkinClinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Iowa) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders gets another extension for personal financial disclosure Biden to make first campaign stop for Clinton in Pa. Group hopes to have independent candidate by end of July MORE (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, have also said they are undecided about whether to support the bill.
Reid has promised colleagues he will make unemployment benefits the first order of business in 2014.
Centrist Democrats such as Sens. Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (D-La.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Overnight Energy: Volkswagen reaches .7B settlement over emissions Senators rally for coal miner pension fix MORE (D-W.Va.) say they will vote "yes."
—Erik Wasson contributed to this report.