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 ReidPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate McCain files B amendment to boost defense spending Dems to GOP: Cancel Memorial Day break 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 McCainOvernight Defense: Pentagon denies troops on Syrian front lines | Senators push for more Afghan visas McCain files B amendment to boost defense spending Senators push to authorize 4,000 more visas for Afghans MORE (R-Ariz.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs 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 FlakeOvernight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Overnight Defense: Terrorism suspected in EgyptAir crash; McCain details funding plans 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 McConnellPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Trump outlines ‘America First’ energy plan MORE (Ky.), John CornynJohn CornynOvernight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill GOP leader pushes for special counsel to investigate Clinton emails MORE (Texas) and John ThuneJohn ThuneSelf-driving cars: The next great leap in automotive safety Overnight Tech: Senate panel poised to advance email privacy bill Senators to House: FAA reauthorization would enhance airport security 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 GrahamSenate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' Romney should endorse Clinton MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill VA secretary comes under fire for comparing wait times to Disneyland 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 LevinCarl, Sander Levin rebuke Sanders for tax comments on Panama trade deal Supreme Court: Eye on the prize Congress got it wrong on unjustified corporate tax loopholes 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 float bipartisan wildfire bill Overnight Energy: Lawmakers closing in on chemical safety deal GOP chair pushes Obama official on Arctic drilling plan 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 BrownThe Hill's 12:30 Report Clinton urged to go liberal with vice presidential pick Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges 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 HarkinDo candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? The Hill's 12:30 Report Mark Mellman: Parsing the primary processes MORE (D-Iowa) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Networks calling about Trump debate Why superdelegates shouldn't support Sanders Young Turks host offers M for Trump, Sanders debate 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 ManchinDem senator: Sanders ‘doesn’t have a lot of answers’ Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges How Congress got to yes on toxic chemical reform MORE (D-W.Va.) say they will vote "yes."
—Erik Wasson contributed to this report.