Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) surprised everyone by coming out hard against the budget deal House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) cut with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
In a statement released early Tuesday afternoon, Corker’s office said the senator voted against cloture on the deal because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked any amendments and debate on the bill. Corker also said he will vote against final passage of the bill.
“Because of the Budget Control Act, for three years in a row, Congress has spent less on discretionary programs than the year before,” Corker said. “While I appreciate the dilemma Paul Ryan was in, it’s disappointing the misguided strategy of the House this fall weakened our hand on fiscal issues and that House appropriators indicated they were unwilling to live within the budget discipline laid out in the sequester.”
Corker pointed out that he believes the argument that the Ryan-Murray bill is “bipartisan” is phony.
“So with the afterglow of the ‘bipartisan’ deal fading, I think everyone can see this budget deal busts the budget caps by $45,000,000,000 in the first year alone without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs, violating the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order and demonstrating that Congress continues to lack the discipline to control spending even in this small way,” Corker said. “Spending now and paying later is the cause of our deficit problems, not the solution.”
Corker’s public denouncement of the bill has shocked many in political circles. Corker normally votes along with establishment Republicans. For instance, he was the co-author with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) of an amendment that pulled the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill out of the fire earlier this year. Hoeven did vote for cloture on the Ryan-Murray budget deal on Tuesday, though it is thus far unclear which way he will vote when it comes to final passage.
Corker’s vote against cloture and pledge to vote against the final passage of the Ryan-Murray plan also puts him at odds with his Tennessee colleague Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Alexander voted for cloture and released a statement saying he will vote against the final passage of the deal.
“I will vote against the budget agreement because it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending,” Alexander said in a statement. “Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions, and the air transportation system.”
Alexander is up for re-election in 2014 and facing a strong primary challenge from the right from state Rep. Joe Carr. In a statement on Tuesday, Carr said Alexander’s vote for cloture “demonstrates just how out of touch he has become.”
“This is a horrible deal that fails to address our spending problem,” Carr said. “Today’s vote is yet another example where Senator Alexander’s inane claim to be a conservative fails to pass the smell test.”
A Public Policy Polling poll released in early December shows Carr is polling just six points behind Alexander in the GOP primary with support from 40 percent of respondents compared to Alexander’s 46 percent.