PORTLAND – Despite a 20-hour session that culminated in a final vote at 5:01 a.m., Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he had an “exhilarating day” debating, amending and finally voting to pass the Senate’s proposal for a federal budget Saturday.
King, who presided over the Senate for two hours after midnight, joined 49 other senators — all Democrats except for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Senate’s other independent – to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. It was the first time the Senate has approved a budget in four years, but it differs so sharply from the Republican-backed House budget that many consider a compromise unlikely.
However, King, who arrived back in Maine for the Senate’s two-week spring recess late Saturday afternoon, said he remained optimistic that an agreement will be reached.
“Now the table is set for a deal,” he said in a brief news conference at the Portland International Jetport.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against the Senate’s Democratic-backed budget plan and earlier in the week opposed the House’s Republican budget proposal. King also opposed the House budget.
Collins said in a statement that she would have voted for “a bipartisan budget plan that would serve as a true starting point toward the consensus we must build together if we are to overcome our most pressing fiscal challenges.”
Nonetheless, Collins said it was a hopeful sign that the Senate was actually tackling a budget bill. She also said she would use her position on the Appropriations Committee — which actually determines spending in specific areas under the budget’s broad outline — “to begin writing fiscally responsible funding bills that reduce spending in areas that we can no longer afford while investing in our national priorities.”
King said the Senate’s marathon session, which included more than 100 amendments and 70 roll-call votes, showed the chamber “really doing what it’s supposed to do.”
The session represented a return to the days when senators actually sat at their desks and engaged in debate, King said. Usually, the only time all the senators are on the floor is for roll-call votes, and then they mostly pass each other as they arrive, cast their votes and then leave almost immediately.
King said the Senate’s budget decisions are good for Maine. A bill that passed earlier in the week, setting out funding for the current fiscal year, included a five-year spending blueprint for the Department of Defense that calls for continued construction of Navy destroyers.
“That’s really locking down jobs in construction and work at Bath Iron Works for the next five years,” King said.
That bill will avert a government shutdown this week, but leaves in place $85 billion in “sequester” spending cuts. King said a Defense Department budget review “offers a glimmer of hope” that furloughs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery can be avoided despite that cut in funding.
King also said the 2013-2014 budget includes $50 million for weatherization efforts, although a state-by-state breakdown wasn’t available.
King also was a co-sponsor of an amendment that could move Congress toward adopting a two-year budget.
Maine and many other states have two-year budget cycles, he said, and adopting one for the federal budget would provide stability for businesses, financial markets and taxpayers while freeing up Congress for more of its oversight duties.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: