24 march 2013

Senate budget shows shift in US politics

By Robin Harding in Washington, Financial Times March 24, 2013

The Keystone XL pipeline received a boost and too-big-to-fail banks are
in trouble after the first Senate budget for four years revealed big shifts in American politics.

As sleep-deprived senators voted into the early hours of Saturday morning, the Democratic majority passed its budget by 50 votes to 49 aiming to raise $975bn in extra tax revenues over the next decade and replace automatic cuts to public spending.

The budget resolution is not binding – and the chances of reconciling it with a radically different vision from the Republican-controlled House are small – but a host of symbolic votes showed how the political ground has shifted on issues from healthcare to the environment.

The budget triggered votes on dozens of amendments, providing one of the first opportunities in years for the moribund and rigidly controlled upper chamber to express its views.

One of the biggest winners was the Keystone XL pipeline, ardently opposed by environmentalists because it would carry high-carbon tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, which won a vote by 62 to 37. Seventeen Democrats backed the pipeline.

Barack Obama, the US president, must decide whether to approve construction but the Senate vote leaves him no political cover to refuse it. “Approving the Keystone Pipeline is the perfect opportunity to put Americans to work right now,” said Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana.

>>> Back to list