Congress Passes Fiscal Responsibility Act

Late Thursday night, the Senate passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 by a vote of 63-36, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature and avoiding a default. 

  • 17 Republican senators voted for the bill: Boozman (AR), Capito (WV), Collins (ME), Cornyn (TX), Cramer (ND), Ernst (IA), Grassley (IA), Hoeven (ND), McConnell (KY), Moran (KS), Mullin (OK), Murkowski (AK), Romney (UT), Rounds (SD), Thune (SD), Tillis (NC), and Young (IN).  
  • Four Democrat senators voted against the bill: Fetterman (PA), Warren (MA), Markey (MA), and Merkley (OR). Senator Sanders (I-VT) also voted against it. 

It was a foregone conclusion that a bill would get done. On Thursday, following passage in the House, there was a lot of handwringing from members of the upper chamber about the bill’s low level of defense spending. There was concern that the middle, the senators needed to advance the bill, would not be there because of spending caps. On the Senate floor, Senator Tom Cotton (AR) said low defense spending posed a “mortal risk to our national security.”

To accommodate upset senators who had an issue with the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to an amendment process to get all 100 senators to agree to finish voting on Thursday. He allowed only amendments that would not pass to be brought up on the floor to ensure the underlying bill would not need to be sent back to the House of Representatives for a revote.

The Senate defeated 11 amendments to the bill, including amendment #107 by Rand Paul (R-KY) which aimed to “provide for a responsible increase to the debt ceiling.” Sixty votes were required for adoption, and it only received 21 votes. 

Therefore, the big, not textual change to the bill is a statement Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) jointly entered into the record that read in part this bill “does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia, and our other adversaries.” It adds that money for domestic issues such as Fentanyl or local emergencies such as wildfires and hurricanes will get supplemental money as well.  

This essentially negates the budget caps set in place by the legislation. The Senate is usually the chamber that decides the shape of the final package and jams the House with a “take it or leave it” vote. In this case, the Senate left the text alone but said they could choose not to abide by the bill’s spending to win the majority’s support and pass a final bill.

The bill now goes to President Biden’s desk for signature. He is expected to make a nationally televised statement tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT.