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.
“Eleven Senate Democrats just voted against their leadership’s proposal,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerPaul Ryan sells out conservatives with healthcare surrender Matt Schlapp: 5 lessons Trump, Ryan must learn from healthcare debate Nunes rebuffs calls for recusal 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 ReidWhat if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? Republican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral 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 BoehnerJohn BoehnerPaul Ryan sells out conservatives with healthcare surrender Matt Schlapp: 5 lessons Trump, Ryan must learn from healthcare debate Nunes rebuffs calls for recusal MORE (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 PaulRand PaulPot state Dems want federal regulation of marijuana Drudge praises 'America's best senator' Rand Paul after lunch in Capitol Trump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMike LeeKushner meets with lawmakers about criminal justice reform: report What are 'religious liberty' bills really about? Lee: Nuclear option justified after Dems used it in 2013 MORE (R-Utah).
Republican centrists who support abortion rights, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Overnight Finance: WH wants to slash billions | Border wall funding likely on hold | Wells Fargo to pay 0M over unauthorized accounts | Dems debate revamping consumer board Lawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities MORE (Maine), Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood 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 BennetPot state Dems want federal regulation of marijuana Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl LevinCarl LevinSenate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Devin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress Ted Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin ‘very close’ on Gorsuch decision Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch Senate Dems to Trump: Work with us on ObamaCare MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillMcCaskill warns blocking Gorsuch could put Supreme Court in 'jeopardy' Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch Top Dem: Trump's wall could cost B MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonSenators move to bolster cyber resources for small businesses Overnight Finance: WH wants to slash billions | Border wall funding likely on hold | Wells Fargo to pay 0M over unauthorized accounts | Dems debate revamping consumer board Senators offer tax bill aimed at helping small businesses MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernie Sanders'Morning Joe' co-host: We got into Trump's head Petition calls for Melania Trump to move to White House or pay NY security costs In California race, social justice wing of Democrats finally comes of age MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark UdallGorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State 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 SchumerSenate seen as starting point for Trump’s infrastructure plan Dems wait for GOP olive branch after ObamaCare debacle How Obama's White House weaponized media against Trump 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 McConnellMitch McConnellWhat if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? Senate votes to eliminate Obama-era retirement rule Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch 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.