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CNN vote count: Budget deal nearing Senate approval, but not there yet

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Monday, December 16, 2013 - 9:00am

The budget deal struck by Republican and Democratic lawmakers that easily passed the House of Representatives last week has run into some opposition in the Senate. But according to CNN's vote count, the deal appears to be nearing passage.

There are currently a total of 33 aye votes for the budget, according to the count, with three Republicans joining 29 Democrats and one independent. All no votes, according to the count, are coming from Republicans, with 20 senate offices telling CNN they plan to vote against the deal.

While Democrats do not have the 50 votes needed for final passage, top aides in both parties privately expressed confidence on Friday the bill will get the necessary support, even if a couple of wary moderate Democrats end up voting "no."

But before the measure faces a final vote, it will need to pass the higher threshold of 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles. But Republicans - like Richard Burr of North Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona - have said they plan to back the motions that will eventually allow Democrats to only need a straight majority to pass the bill.

The three Republicans who plan to support the deal are Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Johnson is the most recent Republican to come out in support of the bill. In a Sunday statement, the Republican lawmaker said that "Although I disagree with a number of provisions in the bill, on balance the good outweighs the bad. As long as the Senate does nothing to worsen the bill, I intend to support it."

The deal worked out by House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray soared through the house, passing by a 332-94 vote. The budget - while smaller than some had wanted - is a bright spot of bipartisanship in what has been a year full of bitter partisanship.

For many, the deal represents a way to ensure that government doesn't shut down again - like it did for 16 days in October.

In the Senate, however, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have questioned aspects of the deal. More liberal senators - like Tom Harkin for Iowa - complained that an unemployment benefit extension was not included in the deal.

"There's over a million people now who cannot find a job, out of work, and right at this time of year their unemployment insurance is being cut off," Harkin told Radio Iowa last week. "It's really unconscionable."

If lawmakers don't act, unemployment benefits - at a cost of $26 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office - will expire for 1.3 million workers on December 28.

On the other side, more conservative members of the the Senate - like John Thune of South Dakota - told CNN he can't support the deal because it doesn't "include meaningful spending reforms that address our debt and deficit."

Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, along with other senators, have also raised question about reductions in cost of living benefits for military retirees.

"After careful review of the agreement, I believe it will do disproportionate harm to our military retirees," Graham said in a release. "Our men and women in uniform have served admirably during some of our nation's most troubling times. They deserve more from us in their retirement than this agreement provides."

Over a quarter of the Senate remains on the fence - with 24 members, including 9 Democrats - telling CNN they have not yet decided how they plan to vote. Representatives from three offices - one Democrat and two Republicans - told CNN they are not announcing how they are voting.

"I will look closely at the details of this budget and evaluate how it meets the needs of New Mexicans and our country as a whole," Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico told CNN. Republicans also remain undecided, like John Cornyn of Texas, whose spokesman told CNN that the senator "will take a close look" at the deal but "is concerned about reversing spending cuts."

For this vote count, CNN has reached out to all 100 Senate offices and 20 have not responded.



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