Spending plan vote backfires as Democrats suffer defections

Spending plan vote backfires as Democrats suffer defections

Senate Democrats suffered a wave of defections Wednesday as their proposal to cut just over $6 billion from federal spending this year went down to defeat. 

The Democratic bill attracted two fewer votes than the rival GOP measure that would cut spending by another $57 billion this year. The 11 defections will give Republican leaders ammunition in subsequent talks, as they were able to keep their caucus more unified. 

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The GOP measure lost by a vote of 44 to 56, while the Democratic bill was rejected, 42-58.

“Eleven Senate Democrats just voted against their leadership’s proposal,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE (R-Ohio).  “The bill supported by Sen. Reid ...  proved less popular than the ‘draconian’ House Republican proposal in the Democrat-controlled Senate.”

Democrats had referred to the GOP proposal as draconian during the debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) last week said it was one of the worst pieces of legislation in the history of the Congress.

Reid had hoped for a game-changer with votes that showed senators closer to the Democratic plan than the one backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), but the plan backfired. 

After the votes, Reid 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.

The GOP bill did not receive a single Democratic vote. Three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus also voted no: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah).

Republican centrists who support abortion rights, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine), Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), backed the House bill, even though it would strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Brown and Snowe are up for reelection in 2012, though Snowe is viewed more vulnerable in a primary than in the general election. When a reporter inquired about her vote, noting the Tea Party is targeting her next year, Snowe smiled and said, “Are they really?”

The Democratic plan, which would have cut $6.2 billion in federal spending, lost 10 Democrats and one Independent member — more than many Senate insiders expected. Every Republican opposed it.

Earlier this week, Reid said that he believed the “vast majority” of his caucus would vote for the Democratic alternative.

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay 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 LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonOvernight Health Care: Ryan's office warns he wasn't part of ObamaCare deal | House conservatives push for mandate repeal in final tax bill | Dem wants probe into CVS-Aetna merger Ryan's office warning he wasn't part of deal on ObamaCare: source Overnight Health Care: Funding bill could provide help for children's health program | Questions for CVS-Aetna deal | Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark 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.), a mix of centrists and liberals, voted against their leadership for different reasons.

The White House said the failed votes showed that both parties must come together to find common ground.

“There is no disagreement that we have to cut spending, which is why we have already agreed to meet Republicans halfway and have indicated our willingness to do more,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “But, we need to ensure we cut responsibly, and that we don’t undermine growth and competitiveness by cutting investments in education and research and development.”

Not all of the Democrats who voted against their party’s measure want their leaders to agree to deeper spending cuts.

Levin said lawmakers need to look at raising taxes and not just at cuts to domestic spending as a means to reduce the deficit.

“It deals only with cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, and as a result it gives support to a pattern of debating only spending cuts as the solution to our deficits, when in fact the solution to this problem must include additional revenue as well,” Levin said.

Sanders made a similar argument.

“I voted against the Democratic proposal because, if the Democrats are serious about deficit reduction, they have to raise revenue along with spending cuts,” he said.

Other Democrats facing reelection said their party leaders need to act more aggressively to cut the projected $1.6 trillion federal deficit.

“There is not enough deficit reduction in the Democratic alternative. We need to do better,” said Kohl.

Manchin, who criticized a lack of leadership from President Obama earlier this week in the spending fight, said 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.”


Ben Nelson criticized both proposals before the vote. “Both bills are dead and they deserve to be dead,” he said. “One cuts too little. The other bill has too much hate. Neither one is serious.”


Kohl, Manchin, McCaskill, Sanders, Ben Nelson and Bill Nelson are facing reelection in 2012.

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.

The current stopgap funding measure runs through March 18.

“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 SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Wednesday in a speech at the Center for American Progress.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (Ky.), however, accused 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 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 point the way to a possible solution to the stalemate. Instead, it confirmed 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.

Collins 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.”

Josiah Ryan and Bob Cusack contributed to this article.