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 ReidNo GOP leaders attending Shimon Peres funeral Overnight Regulation: Feds finalize rule expanding sick leave Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP 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 McCainKerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria Trump, Clinton to headline Al Smith dinner Overnight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq MORE (R-Ariz.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Swing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks 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 Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform GOP senators press Treasury to withdraw estate tax proposal Obama defeat is Schumer victory 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 PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), a vulnerable incumbent, are wavering on the vote.
The top three Senate Republican leaders — Sens. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellObama administration officials ramp up push for Pacific pact Overnight Defense: GOP leaders express concerns after 9/11 veto override | Lawmakers press for Syria 'plan B' | US touts anti-ISIS airstrikes Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform MORE (Ky.), John CornynJohn CornynGOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables MORE (Texas) and John ThuneJohn ThuneOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Congress sends bill eliminating Olympic medal tax to Obama Four states sue to stop internet transition 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 GrahamKerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteThe Trail 2016: Just a little kick Abortion rights group ads tie vulnerable GOP senators to Trump Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables 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 LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? 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 MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Energy: Lawmakers kick off energy bill talks 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 BrownOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 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 HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersAnti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Vulnerable NH Republican ties reelection bid to Trump Overnight Finance: Congress poised to avoid shutdown | Yellen defends Fed from Trump | Why Obama needs PhRMA on trade 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 LandrieuLouisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator La. Senate contender books seven-figure ad buy Crowded field muddies polling in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (D-W.Va.) say they will vote "yes."
—Erik Wasson contributed to this report.