An amendment seeking to cap discretionary spending failed by four votes in the Senate on Thursday.
The amendment by Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) got the support of 40 Republicans, 14 Democrats and two independents but didn't get the supermajority it needed to be adopted. The amendment woudl have whether to attach it to a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill.
The amendment would cap discretionary spending through 2014 at the levels set out in the budget resolution passed last year. The resolution allowed for average annual discretionary spending increases of 1.5 percent. But it wouldn't touch mandatory spending, such as entitlement benefits, which make up the bulk of the federal budget.
McCaskill and Sessions criticized Senate Democratic leaders for blocking "a baby step" toward reining deficits the Congressional Budget Office expects to average nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.
"This is one of those moments that I separate from leadership in my party, and I'm proud to separate from leadership of my party, because this is the right thing to do right now," McCaskill said. "America doesn't think we get it."
Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), who opposed the amendment, said lawmakers should be "judicious" in deciding how to deal with the debt. He noted it wouldn't address larger portions of the budget, such as the tax code and entitlement spending.
"Government has to pay its bills," Dorgan said. "Dealing with the with entire area of public spending here is very important."
Thursday's vote was the third time Sessions and McCaskill's amendment failed. In a procedural vote on the amendment earlier this month, it received the backing of 59 senators.