SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's senators voted against the massive bipartisan federal budget deal the U.S. Senate passed Thursday and that now heads to the president's desk.
Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, both Republicans, said last week they intended to oppose the $320 billion spending bill that avoids another government shutdown and lifts the debt ceiling into 2021. It passed 67-28.
“If we can’t control spending now when the economy is performing about as well as it possibly can, then when can we?" Lee asked in a statement. "We need to start taking steps in the right direction, and the first step is voting against bills like this one that do not meaningfully address our spending problem.”
Romney said he opposed the legislation because it adds another $2 trillion to the national debt.
"The reality is that if we want to finally get a grip on the amount of deficit we have and the debt that we have as a country, we're going to have to focus on the big parts of government spending that are not even part of the budget deal at all, and that's Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Transportation Trust Fund, and so forth," he said just before the vote.
Congress, he said, needs to find a better process to craft a budget as opposed to every few months putting together emergency legislation that raises debt ceilings, spending levels and appropriations.
"We've got to find a new way, and that's something I'm working on," Romney said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged senators to vote for the bill, saying it's the deal the U.S. House passed and President Donald Trump is eager to sign.
Trump tweeted, "Budget Deal is phenomenal for our Great Military, our Vets, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! Two year deal gets us past the Election. Go for it Republicans, there is always plenty of time to CUT!."
Utah's four congressmen were split on the deal, which passed the House last week.
The state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, joined Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, in voting against the two-year deal, while Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop voted for it.
A number of conservatives balked at the spending plan, which would head off another government shutdown and avoid a looming default on payments on the country's debt.