The first budget resolution to clear the Senate in four years exposed a divide between four lawmakers who look to be rivals for the Republican nomination for president.

Although largely symbolic and perhaps short-lived, the split had Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida voting in favor of the Republican budget plan around 3 a.m. Friday while Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted no.

“I cannot support a budget that claims to balance [with] revenue increases generated by Obamacare taxes,” @SenTedCruz says.

“We need meaningful entitlement reforms, without budget gimmicks, and I cannot support a budget that claims to balance in the year 2025 by utilizing revenue increases generated by Obamacare taxes,” Cruz, the first major Republican or Democrat to announce for president, said in a statement explaining his vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz voted against the Senate budget. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Although crediting fellow Republicans for their efforts to mitigate what he called “unrealistic spending increases and continually expanding deficits” under President Obama, Cruz sought to appeal to conservatives by saying it wasn’t enough “given the gravity of the debt facing our children and grandchildren.”

Paul didn’t explain why he voted against the Republican plan, and his office did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal.

On the Senate floor earlier, however, Paul argued that he supported increases in military spending but they should be offset by cuts in other programs.

“America does not project power from bankruptcy court,” he said. “We need a strong national defense, but we should be honest with the American people and pay for it.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a frequent Paul ally as the senior senator from Kentucky, characterized the Senate’s pending budget action as “delivering that change” voters mandated Nov. 4 in returning the upper chamber of Congress to Republican control.

Sen. Rand Paul (Photo: Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

But without Cruz and Paul, McConnell couldn’t afford to lose two more votes and still secure adoption of the GOP’s spending priorities for next year.

The political theater included Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, two possible contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination should Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign falter.

“The Republican budget resolution we’ll vote on tonight would weaken the rules on Wall Street and raises the risk of another financial crisis – all so the big banks can rake in more money,” Warren said in a Facebook post Thursday.

“The Republican budget resolution … raises the risk of another financial crisis,” @SenWarren says.

Cruz formally announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for president last Monday. That left three other potential 2016ers among fellow Republican senators. Paul has set an announcement for April 7 in Louisville, Ky., followed by rallies in the first four primary or caucus states. Rubio and Graham have yet to divulge plans, although the Tampa Bay Times reported Rubio is set to announce April 13 in Miami.

The “nays” from Cruz and Paul in the 52-46 vote on the budget resolution injected some last-minute drama into what for veteran observers was a fairly predictable, 16-hour marathon dubbed a “vote-a-rama.”

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