Senate rejects dueling spending plans, leaves legislative stalemate

Senators voted largely along party lines Wednesday to reject two proposals to cut federal spending, leaving a legislative stalemate that will have to be resolved briskly to avert another government shutdown.
 
A Republican proposal passed by the House that would slash another $57 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget failed 44 votes to 56. It did not receive a single Democratic vote.
 

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Three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus also opposed the bill: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Prison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections Grassley ‘incensed’ by Sessions criticism of proposed sentencing reform legislation MORE (R-Utah).

An alternative Democratic plan to cut $6.2 billion in federal spending failed to garner any Republican support. The vote was 42 to 58.

Ten Democrats and one independent, a mix of centrists and liberals, voted against the Democratic alternative for different reasons: Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetColorado senators pitch immigration compromise Colorado senators mark Olympics with Senate hallway curling GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill welcomes ninth grandson in a row Dem group launches M ad buy to boost vulnerable senators Senate Dems block crackdown on sanctuary cities MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonGingrich says arming teachers only long-term solution to school shootings Florida students turn to activism in wake of shooting CNN invites Trump to town hall with parents, students of Florida high school MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states After Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Kohl, Manchin, McCaskill, Sanders and both Ben and Bill Nelson face reelection in 2012.

The current stopgap funding measure expires on March 18. 

After the votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) did not respond when asked if he was surprised that the Republican bill secured more votes than the Democratic measure. He did say he wants to strike a deal that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, reiterating his opposition to passing stop-gap bills.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said spending negotiations would begin in earnest after the test votes forced senators to take public stances on the competing proposals.
 
“Once it is plain that both parties' opening bids in this budget debate are non-starters, we can finally get serious about sitting down and narrowing the huge gap that exists between the two sides,” Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Wednesday in a speech at the Center for American Progress. 
 
Schumer said the votes would allow leaders to resume negotiations from a new perspective. 
 
“So these failed votes today are an opportunity. After they happen, leaders on both sides will be able to convince their rank-and-file of the need to compromise, and we can start afresh,” he said. “We need to hit the reset button on the debate.”
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (Ky.), however, accused the Democrats of not being serious about cutting spending.
 
“Paying lip service to the threat caused by the deficit is not a substitute for responsible leadership, and that job-destroying tax hikes on small businesses and American families are not the answer to out-of-control Washington spending,” McConnell said.
 
Wednesday’s votes did little to shed light on the impasse other than confirm that no senator is willing to buck his own party by teaming up with the other side.

Republican centrists voted for the House GOP proposal despite their misgivings.
 
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (R-Maine) told The New York Times Tuesday: “There are a lot of cuts that I think are ill-advised. There are programs eliminated halfway during the year rather than phased out in an orderly fashion.”
 
Collins nevertheless voted for the package of cuts.
 
Democratic centrists said both bills failed to adequately address the nation’s budget crisis.

Manchin said Tuesday the Democratic plan “doesn’t go far enough” and “ignores our fiscal realities.”
 
But he said the House GOP plan was “even more flawed” because it “blindly hacks the budget with no sense of our priorities or of our values as a country.”
 
Sen. Ben Nelson criticized both proposals before the vote.
 
“Both bills are dead and they deserve to be dead,” said Nelson. “One cuts too little. The other bill has too much hate. Neither one is serious.”
 
Nelson criticized the House bill for restricting the use of ethanol in cars and trucks.
 
“Cutting back on ethanol at a time when gas prices are above $3.50 a gallon nationwide and rising fast is the wrong thing to do,” he said. “Worse, it’s a gift to foreign oil.”
 
House GOP leaders have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations on another short-term stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating beyond March 18.
 
A Senate aide close to the House GOP leadership said the measure would likely be similar to the two-week continuing resolution that cut $4 billion, which passed earlier this month.
 
House Republican leaders may take some of the $6.2 billion in cuts Senate Democrats included in the alternative package they put on the floor this week. The aide said it would be difficult for Democrats to vote against a short-term continuing resolution that includes the cuts they’ve proposed.
 
Democratic leaders, however, will insist on passing a long-term continuing resolution so they can concentrate on other legislative priorities, such as energy legislation and their jobs agenda.
 
Democrats also worry that passing a short-term government funding measure will force them to have to accept an additional round of cuts when it expires.
 
“I don’t like this death by a thousand cuts but I also don’t want a government shutdown,” Mikulski said last week. 

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Ohio) issued a statement after the Senate votes, saying the public is "demanding that Washington rein in out-of-control federal spending" and criticizing the Democratic plan.

"It’s time for Washington Democrats to present a serious plan to cut spending," he said. "In the meantime, Republicans will continue to keep our pledge to focus on the American people’s priorities: cutting spending and creating jobs.” 
 
Josiah Ryan and Bob Cusack contributed to this article.

This story was first posted at 3:29 p.m. and most recently updated at 4:37 p.m.