Senate Democrats say they will force vote on House spending bill

Sensing division, Senate Democrats declared Tuesday that they will force Republicans to vote on the House GOP’s bill to cut $57 billion in spending.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would bring a cloture vote late Tuesday evening, and perhaps as late as 1 a.m. Wednesday, on a motion to debate the House spending bill. 

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Reid said he would ensure that, no matter how much time it takes, there would be up-or-down votes on the House GOP bill to cut $57 billion in additional spending this year and a Democratic alternative to cut $6.5 billion. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there would be a vote on the competing proposal from Democrats in the next day or so, but it was clear Tuesday that Republicans were still scrambling to get all GOP senators to vote for the House bill. 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) claimed the Senate GOP is wavering because centrist party members do not want to vote for the deep cuts in the House bill.

Durbin said the Senate GOP is avoiding the vote “because it is a painful vote for those who still cling to the belief that they are moderate Republicans. Look at the riders.  I can think a half a dozen Republican senators who do not want to be on record cutting funding for Planned Parenthood."

“They may not want to be on record on some of the environmental cuts. Think of some names here. Now they’re stuck: take it or leave it, HR 1. I think they want to leave it and they are embarrassed to leave it after the House has made such a show of it,” he said.

Durbin said that Democrats would vote for the motion to proceed to HR 1 in order to force an up-or-down vote on it that they will then vote en bloc against.

Republican Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) ran from reporters after a party lunch on Tuesday and said that the party whip count is not finished yet so he could not say whether all Republicans are on board with the House bill.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) refused to say whether she would vote for it Tuesday, while Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said he supports it.

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) are also seen as possible defections.

Reid said that he believes the “vast majority” of his caucus will vote for the Democratic alternative, although some moderate members have said it does not go far enough. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may vote against it because he thinks it cuts too much, he told reporters Tuesday.

When asked whether President Obama has been doing enough to lead during the budget fight, Reid said he has been in touch with Obama every day. He noted that the president “has a lot of other things on his plate,” like the crisis in the Middle East.

Reid said that he is opposed to an additional short-term spending bill being floated by the House. He said Senate Republicans should stop wasting time by dragging out the votes on the alternative spending bills, and get on with the negotiations on a long-term spending bill. 

Reid has said that the House GOP has made a Senate vote on its spending bill a pre-requisite for further spending talks.