The Senate on Wednesday voted to boost aid to Pakistan and increase funds for security along the U.S.-Mexico border, but rejected a Republican attempt to freeze spending on domestic programs.
As lawmakers continued work on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year, the Senate was poised to vote on whether to move quickly on President Barack Obama's controversial "cap-and-trade" plan to combat global warming. The so-called fast-track procedure would allow Democrats to move the measure through the Senate without Republican votes.
The Senate was expected to reject the process. By voice vote, the Senate approved a plan by Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, to add $550 million to the homeland security budget to protect areas along the U.S.-Mexico border from violent drug cartels. Democratic Sen. John Kerry restored $4 billion in foreign aid that had been cut from Obama's budget, and Sen. Jack Reed, also a Democrat, added almost $2 billion to heating subsidies for the poor.
But Democrats easily rejected a bid by Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican, to freeze domestic spending at 2008 levels. The vote was 58-40.
On the global warming effort, Republicans fear that Democrats will use parliamentary rules to push through the cap-and-trade legislation later this year. Under cap-and-trade, the government would auction permits to emit heat-trapping gases, with the costs being passed on to consumers via higher gasoline and electric bills. Several moderate Democrats oppose the plan.
Despite spending reductions, the House Republican plan projects permanent deficits exceeding $500 billion into the future, fueled largely by big tax cuts.
The Republican has no chance of becoming law, but offers voters a contrast between the rival parties. Republicans have complained that Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for next year taxes, borrows and spends way too much. The White House and Democrats have labeled the Republicans the "party of no."