The vote was a strong rebuke of the Bush ideology to radically cut all federal services to US citizens while dramatically increasing military and defense budgets. Many Americans, and members of Congress, called the Bush 2006 budget immoral.
All 100 Senators (44 Democrats, 55 Republicans, 1 Independent) voted late into the night on 26 amendments, to craft a surprising fiscal 2006 budget before they left for a two-week Easter recess to face voters back at home.
Veterans Medical Care The Senate voted 96 to 4 to add $410 million to fund medical services for US veterans. Bush had proposed raising co-payments and eligibility requirements for benefits.
Transportation/Amtrak The Senate voted 81 to 19 to provide flexibility to consider all available transportation funding options. Thus, Amtrak has not been shutdown and forced into bankruptcy, as the President desires.
Medicaid The Senate voted 52 to 48 to restore all of the $14 billion in Medicaid cuts in the Bush budget over five years. Medicaid is government health insurance for the poor, children, elderly, pregnant women and disabled.
Education The Senate voted 51 to 49 to restore billions in Bush cuts to education programs for US students and communities. Most of the cuts targeted economically disadvantaged neighborhood schools and immigrant populations.
Community Development Block Grants The Senate voted 68 to 31 to rollback all $4.7 billion in Bush cuts and changes to grants given to local communities to redevelop and provide services to distressed neighborhoods and small business districts. These programs have proven to be lifelines of survival for many US towns and cities.
Homeland Security The Senate voted 63 to 37 to restore $565 million in Bush cuts to local first responder services (fire, police, emergency) for Homeland Security. It also includes $150 million for vital port security grants; and $140 million for 1,000 additional border patrol agents. The 9/11 Commission recommended adding 2,000 border patrol agents, yet the Bush budget provided for only 200 new border patrols agents.
Health and Education The Senate voted 63 to 37 to increase discretionary health and education funding by $2 billion. Bush decimated numerous public health services including the Centers for Disease Control, Administration for Children & Families and the office of Health & Human Service Secretary, a cabinet-level post.
Agriculture In an odd win for President Bush, the Senate left unchanged $2.8 billion in farm subsidy cuts. The win is odd for this conservative President because it affects mainly Republican red states.
Whats next? A compromise must now be formulated between the Senate 2006 budget, and the House budget, which closely follows that set forth by President Bush.
The Senate has cleverly packaged its budget to make it alluring to President Bush, despite the spending increases. On Wednesday, the Senate attached an amendment to its budget to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a cherished decades-long dream for black-gold hungry Texas oil men. If the Senate budget does not pass, the drilling measure is doomed.
Also, a bit inexplicably, both the House and Senate passed and even added to proposed Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax cuts should also entice Mr. Bush to accept the Senate spending measures.
What does it mean? This show of political courage and activism by the US Senate means a couple things. It means that Senators, both Democratic and Republican, are not afraid of President Bush amid his dwindling political might and appeal. It means that theyre more afraid to face voters back home who have suffered cutbacks in education, health benefits, medical services for veterans, vital city and homeland security services and more.
It also means that the Senators hear the growing chorus of outraged American voices from across the political spectrum, from liberals and independents to Republicans and all religious faiths.
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), who proposed the amendment to rescind Medicaid cuts, asked that the Senate take time to carefully study potential Medicaid savings. He echoed the sentiments of many when he objected to cutting the program because it serves the lame, the poor, the blind, the needy, those who have no resources if we pull away this central strand in the safety net.
All faith and values voters, whether Democrat or Republican, must feel relieved by the Senates rebuke of the Presidents mean-spirited, anti-education, anti-veterans, anti-poor, anti-healthcare, anti-local budget.