Republicans settle on sequester alternative

Senate Republicans have offered legislation crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and James InhofeJames InhofeSenate Republicans push for Flint aid bill Menendez rails against Puerto Rico bill for 4 hours on floor EPA proposes climate rule incentives despite court hold MORE (R-Okla.) as their alternative to the sequester due to take effect Friday.

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Some Republicans initially balked at the plan because they thought it gave too much power to President Obama and did not do enough to protect defense programs.

The bill grants the Office of Management and Budget flexibility to implement $85 billion worth of spending cuts scheduled for fiscal year 2013.

Some Republicans argue the administration already has this power but lawmakers from both sides have characterized the sequester as a “meat-axe” approach that would cut programs across the board.

The Toomey-Inhofe plan would require the same amount be cut from federal programs but would give Obama authority to replace cuts to defense with cuts from elsewhere in the budget.

It explicitly prohibits a tax increase.

The Senate will vote on it tomorrow along with a Democratic plan and both are expected to fall short of the 60-vote threshold. Several Republicans could vote against the GOP alternative.

Some Republicans complain that it gives too much authority to Obama. Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranOvernight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate Appropriations speeds through spending bills Week ahead: Senators face unfinished defense work MORE (R-Miss.), the former senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he would “probably” vote against it for that reason.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGroup hopes to have independent candidate by end of July Poll: Trump gets 1 percent support among black voters Cutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal MORE (R-Ariz.), a leader on defense issues, has also raised objections because the bill would likely not stop a more-than-$40 billion reduction in defense spending.

Senate Republicans debated at lunches on Tuesday and Wednesday over what sequester alternatives to propose. McCain and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelley Ayotte (R-N.H.) proposed an alternate plan to reduce the defense cuts to $10 billion.

“I don’t care how flexible you want to be, the top-line numbers don’t add up to me on defense. That’s my problem," Graham told reporters after a contentious GOP meeting Tuesday.

Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenators press Obama education chief on reforms Senate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote MORE (R-Tenn.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenators press Obama education chief on reforms GOP senator: Trump endorsement could depend on VP Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund MORE (R-Maine) proposed another alternative, as did Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office Trump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Trump flexes new digital muscle MORE (R-Ky.), according to a senior GOP source.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidIowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellBusiness groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal 'Never Trump' plots its last stand MORE (Ky.) entered into an agreement before the Presidents’ Day recess to give Democrats and Republicans each one vote on a sequester alternative.

McConnell this week asked Reid to allow votes on multiple Republican proposals but Reid declined the request.