Tax Overhaul Off to Rocky Start as Senators Bicker Over Budget

Updated on
  • Harsh words as Senate takes first step on long road to cuts
  • Paul opposition may not be enough to stop budget enactment

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Passing a budget is the easiest part of Republicans’ plan to get a tax overhaul through the Senate -- and that effort devolved into insults Tuesday as Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham squabbled over defense spending levels.

"Senators McCain and Graham are torpedoing the budget by insisting on busting the budget caps for more spending," Paul of Kentucky said on Twitter. He threatened to vote against the budget, which unlocks a fast-track process to pass a tax bill without having to face a Democratic filibuster.

"I don’t know how long it takes to figure out where this guy is coming from," responded Graham of South Carolina. "He is never getting to yes. He’s always got a reason to vote no. This thing about me and McCain is about as disingenuous as you can possibly be."

"We have 51 Republicans plus Rand Paul," Graham added.

For Republicans eager to move beyond their failed fight to repeal Obamacare, the war of words can’t be comforting.

Paul demanded a $43 billion cut in defense spending and the removal of language allowing higher spending caps if Democrats and Republicans reach a spending bill deal in December.

If Paul doesn’t get the changes he wants, his "no" vote can block the budget if one other Republican joins him in opposition. Normally, it would take three Republicans to block the budget measure, but Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran is ill this week.

“I don’t pay any attention to Senator Paul,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona. “Nor does hardly anybody else.”

McCain said Tuesday that he’ll support the budget resolution. “But I’m demanding they fix defense spending,” he said.

Despite the squabbling, all 50 Republicans in the Senate Tuesday voted to open debate on the budget. A final vote is likely Friday.

— With assistance by Sahil Kapur

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