(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Senate adopted a fiscal 2016 budget that calls for $5.1 trillion in spending cuts to achieve balance in 10 years, while avoiding proposals to partially privatize Medicare as many Republicans brace for re-election.
In the 52-46 vote Friday, Senate Republicans, who control the chamber for the first time in eight years, persuaded enough of their members to back a compromise fiscal blueprint to avoid the embarrassment of a failed vote.
Republicans, with a 54-46 Senate majority, could afford only three defections to adopt the budget. Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and potential 2016 contender, Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky cast the only Republican votes against the budget. That action came after the Senate voted in a marathon session on dozens of politically charged amendments that are sure to become campaign fodder.
After passing a bill that would exempt grid-enabled water heaters from pending Energy Department efficiency standards and promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings, the Senate adjourned at 4:22 a.m. Friday and will reconvene on April 13. The Senate did not take up House-passed legislation to ward off an April 1 cut in Medicare physician payments.
Republicans have long criticized Democrats about the U.S. budget deficit, so failing to adopt a budget would have been a major blow to their new Republican majority.
“For years, the Democrat-led Senate refused to pass a balanced budget,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “It usually failed to produce any budget at all. Maybe this made the special interests happy, but it was infuriating for many in the middle class.”
The budget resolution won votes because it backed more defense spending than President Barack Obama has proposed. To appease advocates of more defense spending, the plan places money in a special war-funding account that isn’t subject to spending limits.
“It’s the best option we currently have for leaving the next president in a better position to face global challenges,” said McConnell of Kentucky.
Senate Republicans avoided a plan to partially privatize Medicare that was embraced by the U.S. House of Representatives in its budget. The Senate plan instead calls for $430 billion in spending cuts without explaining where they would be made.
Some Senators worried that the House approach on Medicare, unpopular with voters, would damage them politically in 2016.
See also: House Republicans seek Medicare cuts
Next year, Republicans must defend 24 Senate seats compared with 10 for Democrats, a reversal from the past two elections when significantly more Senate Democrats were on the ballot.
The Medicare provisions will now be the subject of a House-Senate conference committee next month.