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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 BoehnerSome doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP Lobbying World McCarthy courts conservatives in Speaker's bid 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 Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs 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 PaulHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA Key senators warn Trump of North Korea effort on Syria Rep. Jordan: Action in Syria ‘should be debated in Congress’ MORE (R-Utah).

Republican centrists who support abortion rights, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (Maine), Mark KirkMark Steven 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 BennetOvernight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Lawmakers discuss Latino education gap The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina 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) ManchinHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump eyes Cold War statute to keep coal burning: report Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd McCaskill outpaces GOP opponent by more than million MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonScott ramps up spending to million in Florida Senate race Overnight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Bill Press reflects on Clinton, Sanders and a life in politics Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups 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 SchumerHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Congress should build on the momentum from spending bill Corker won’t campaign against Democrat running for Tennessee Senate seat 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 McConnell32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd FreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker 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.