Republicans settle on sequester alternative

Senate Republicans have offered legislation crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and James InhofeJames InhofeDemocrats blast GOP for ‘sabotaging’ House waterways bill GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Week ahead: Flint aid fight shifts to House 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 CochranMomentum builds for Clyburn poverty plan 'Hardball' Pentagon memo creates firestorm Insiders dominate year of the outsider MORE (R-Miss.), the former senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he would “probably” vote against it for that reason.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainTrump's new debate challenge: Silence Senate rivals gear up for debates McCain opponent releases new ad hitting his record 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 Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senators buck spending bill over Export-Import Bank Pelosi pans latest GOP stopgap spending offer 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 AlexanderOvernight Regulation: Lawsuits pile up against Obama overtime rule The American people are restive, discouraged and sometimes suicidal GOP chairman eyes lame-duck for passing medical cures bill MORE (R-Tenn.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Maine) proposed another alternative, as did Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSaudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales Five tips from Trump's fallen rivals on how to debate him MORE (R-Ky.), according to a senior GOP source.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBlack Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP Report: Intelligence officials probing Trump adviser's ties to Russia White House preps agencies for possible shutdown MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP 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.