Senate Democrats block VA funding bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a bill that would fund veterans' benefits and military construction, in an effort to push Republicans to negotiate a larger budget deal.

Senators voted 50-44 on ending debate over whether to proceed to the funding bill. Sixty votes were needed.

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Democrats were expected to block the legislation as part of their push for an agreement that would roll back congressionally-mandated spending caps on both defense and non-defense spending.

"It has no chance of getting 60 votes. None. I know that. The Republican leader knows that. So why are we wasting time on votes destined to fail?" Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) said ahead of the vote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalLast chance to improve Afghanistan’s fledgling Air Force? Poll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (D-Conn.) said the bill "straight jackets" the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and "short changes" veterans.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellNew DNC chairman wastes no time going after Trump Dem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks Though flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance MORE (R-Ky.) slammed Democrats, suggesting they had flip-flopped on the legislation since it was passed out of the Appropriations Committee.

"They issued press releases praising the bill, but they seem prepared to block the Senate from even debating this bill, too," he said. "It's all part of some half-baked Democratic scheme to get more money for the IRS and the Washington bureaucracies."

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) added Democrats' blocking the bill will have "consequences" for veterans as well as active-duty troops.

"If we fail to act, it will not just be our veterans who are hurt. It will also affect our active-duty military and our national security," he added.

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyThe DNC in the age of Trump: 5 things the new chairman needs to do Poll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Ind.) was the only Democrat who voted to move forward with the VA proposal.

"Our commitment to supporting veterans should be something we can all agree on. However, we must also remember that supporting veterans and their families goes beyond the VA’s budget," Donnelly said in a statement.

"I remain hopeful that in the coming weeks members of both sides of the aisle can come together and begin the hard work of negotiating a bipartisan budget that reflects all of our country’s needs."

While Thursday is the first time McConnell has tried to move the VA funding bill, Democrats have previously twice blocked a separate defense spending bill, even as Republicans hammered them as obstructionist.

With government funding now set to expire on Dec. 11, McConnell and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving Boehner: ObamaCare repeal and replace 'not going to happen' MORE have opened the door to negotiations with Democrats on a budget deal.

— This story was updated at 4:50 p.m.