Democrats argue McConnell move exposes GOP divide on spending

Democrats are arguing that a move by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday to block an up-or-down vote on House spending cuts shows Senate Republicans are divided on the cuts.

McConnell objected Friday to two moves by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The objections mean the Senate will vote on a cloture motion on whether to proceed to a House bill cutting spending by another $57 billion, instead of an up-or-down vote on that measure that Reid wanted to set up.

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Democrats believe an up-or-down vote would put the squeeze on centrist Republicans uneasy with some of the cuts in the House bill. The cloture vote scheduled for Tuesday gives Republicans the “wiggle” room to vote with their party and say that they still opposed specific cuts, a Senate aide said.

“By objecting to an up-or-down vote on the House bill, Senate Republicans are agreeing with us that the proposal is too extreme to pass as is. Now that they have admitted they want changes to it just like we do, the real negotiations on the budget can finally begin,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

“Senate Republicans have been clamoring for a vote on the measure for weeks, only to back off an offer by Majority Leader Harry Reid to have a final-passage vote on the measure next Tuesday,” Schumer’s office stated.

McConnell’s office responded Friday that McConnell and Reid are actually working together to move to votes next week on both measures.

“I feel bad for Sen. Schumer, he must not have been on the floor at the time and missed the exchange between the Senate leaders where they discussed working together over the weekend to set up votes on both the House bill and the Dems’ status quo bill,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in reply.

McConnell objected to Reid’s attempt to proceed to consideration of a Democratic bill to reduce spending this year by $6.5 billion; and a motion to proceed to a vote on legislation already approved by the House that would cut $57 billion in spending. (Congress has already approved $4 billion in cuts for this year. The original legislation approved by the House cut a total of $61 billion.)

The move forced Reid to file a cloture on the motion to proceed to the House bill.

“We need to have a chance over the weekend to take a look at what our friends have offered here and it could well be that by Monday, we will conclude this proposal that the majority leader has laid out is the best way to go forward,” McConnell said on the floor on Friday. “We’ll continue to talk about that over the weekend.”