Republicans settle on sequester alternative

Senate Republicans have offered legislation crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and James InhofeJames InhofeTaiwan deserves to participate in United Nations Optimism rising for infrastructure deal Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate 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 CochranPicking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Overnight Defense: FBI chief confirms Trump campaign, Russia probe | Senators push for Afghan visas | Problems persist at veterans' suicide hotline Senators ask to include visas for Afghans in spending bill MORE (R-Miss.), the former senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he would “probably” vote against it for that reason.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGraham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump Give Trump the silent treatment Five key moments from Trump's first 100 days 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 GrahamGraham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump Five key moments from Trump's first 100 days GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall 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 AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice MORE (R-Tenn.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsCollins: I'm not working with Freedom Caucus chairman on healthcare Mexico: Recent deportations 'a violation' of US immigration rules White House denies misleading public in aircraft carrier mix-up MORE (R-Maine) proposed another alternative, as did Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWe can put America first by preventing public health disasters Conservative activists want action from Trump McConnell: 'Big challenge' to pass ObamaCare repeal in Senate MORE (R-Ky.), according to a senior GOP source.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSchumer: Funding deal possible if Trump drops border wall Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall 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.