This was a vote on a motion to waive the Senate’s budget rules, which would effectively allow the chamber to bring up legislation that would provide annual funding for military construction and veterans’ programs in fiscal year 2012. Specifically, the Senate’s rules prohibited the consideration of any spending bill (known as an “appropriations bill”) until the chamber had passed a budget resolution (which is essentially a budget blueprint setting limits on all federal spending). Since the Senate had not passed a budget resolution, a motion to waive its budget rules was necessary in order to bring up the military construction and veterans spending bill.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) urged support for the motion to waive the Senate’s budget rules: “I rise today in support of the motion to waive [the Senate’s budget rules]…and to allow the Senate to move forward with its consideration of the MilconVA [military construction and veterans affairs] appropriations bill. I would like to say for the record that I agree…that it would be preferable for the Senate to have passed a budget resolution prior to its consideration of individual appropriations bills….Unfortunately, such is not the case this year….It is important that all of our colleagues understand that what we are recommending is not unprecedented. In fact, the Senate has acted on appropriations legislation absent a budget resolution four times in the past decade, including twice under Republican control. It is my strong desire, as I believe it is the desire of every member of the Appropriations Committee, that we move our bills under regular order. However, with less than 90 days left in the fiscal year and no budget resolution in sight, efforts need to be made to ensure the livelihood of our veterans and their families are not disrupted.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) opposed the motion to waive: “We have now been operating for more than 800 days without a budget having been passed. We are operating at the direction of the party in control of this body [the Democrats] on autopilot. It is easy to operate on autopilot. In many ways it is far easier than operating not on autopilot, especially when we are spending more than $1.5 trillion a year more than we are bringing in, more than $1.5 trillion every year more than we have, continuing to bury our children under a mountain of debt. When you are on autopilot, you don't have the same constraints, the same hard choices, the same prioritization demands that need to be made that Americans make every single day as they manage their homes, their lives, their families, their businesses--and state and local governments. This is unfortunate. It is unnecessary, and it is shameful. It should not continue to operate this way. An enterprise as large as the federal government, which brings in $2.2 trillion every single year, having access to more money than perhaps any other institution on Earth, ought to be able to operate with a budget. It ought to be able to pass a budget.”
The Senate agreed to this motion to waive its budget rules by a vote of 56-40. All 53 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted “yea.” 40 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate brought up legislation that would provide annual funding for military construction and veterans’ programs in fiscal year 2012.