Dissent is great! Unless you’re talking about spending bills

The AP reports on a mini-revolt taking place in the Senate amongst leading Democrats on the massive omnibus spending bill:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democratic leaders are working hard to suppress dissent within their party over boosting agency spending by 8 percent as the government runs whopping deficits and constituents are forced to scrimp on their own budgets.

Coming to the rescue are a few Republicans standing ready to help pass the pending $410 billion catchall spending bill – and allow lawmakers in both parties to get the thousands of pet projects they crave and above-inflation budget increases for favorite programs like education.

A close vote is expected late this week to advance the sweeping spending bill, which wraps together the budgets for 12 Cabinet departments and other agencies, to President Barack Obama. The White House promises to sign it despite unhappiness over the 8,000 or so homestate pet projects it contains.

Democrats and their allies control 58 seats in the Senate, but 60 votes will be needed to close debate and free the measure for Obama’s desk.

A few Democrats are voicing opposition to the bill, however, unhappy with its cost and changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Most significantly, Democrats Evan Bayh of Indiana and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin announced Wednesday that they will vote against the bill. Both urged Obama to veto it.

“There’s just a disconnect between what people are having to go through in their daily lives – tightening their belts, economizing where they can – and what they see the government is doing,” Bayh said in an interview. “I just think it’s tone deaf and, substantively, we do need to get the deficit under control.”

Democratic leaders scrambled to hold onto other Democrats, even as some GOP leaders conceded the bill is going to pick up GOP votes that would prove critical to its passage.

“I just don’t know whether we have enough votes to stop it,” said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the No. 3 GOP leader in the Senate.

The measure contains budget increases, on average, of 8 percent for the domestic agencies it covers, far more than they received under the Bush administration. But moderates such as Bayh are unhappy with the additional spending, especially after many agencies received huge infusions of money under the just-enacted economic recovery bill.

At the same time, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida are weighing whether to oppose the legislation over a provision buried in it that would moderate rules on travel to Cuba and would make it easier for Cuba to pay for imports of food and medicine.

Democratic leaders hope to clear the bill – it passed the House last week – to meet a Friday deadline. That’s when a stopgap funding law that keeps the government going, mostly at 2008 levels, runs out.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is also trying to keep the bill free of floor amendments that would force the measure into negotiations with the House that would delay enactment or kill the measure altogether.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a big time promoter of Obama’s last year, is rumored to be considering opposing the bill as well.

It probably won’t matter in the end, though – the article notes towards the end about a couple of Republicans who have already gone on record as saying they support the omnibus spending bill in its current form, and there are at least two more Republicans who Senate Democrats are ‘hopeful’ they can win over. Still, it’s somewhat surprising to see leading Senate Dems voice serious reservations or outright say they won’t support a bill that the popular President who just happens to be a member of their party has vowed to sign.

Related: “Moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate are starting to choke over the massive spending and tax increases in President Barack Obama’s budget plans and have begun plotting to increase their influence over the agenda of a president who is turning out to be much more liberal than they are.

A group of 14 Senate Democrats and one independent huddled behind closed doors on Tuesday, discussing how centrists in that chamber can assert more leverage on the major policy debates that will dominate this Congress.” – Politico

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