Senators voted largely along party lines Wednesday to reject two proposals to cut federal spending, leaving a legislative stalemate that will have to be resolved briskly to avert another government shutdown.
A Republican proposal passed by the House that would slash another $57 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget failed 44 votes to 56. It did not receive a single Democratic vote.
Three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus also opposed the bill: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeePut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Utah).
An alternative Democratic plan to cut $6.2 billion in federal spending failed to garner any Republican support. The vote was 42 to 58.
Ten Democrats and one independent, a mix of centrists and liberals, voted against the Democratic alternative for different reasons: Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm dead at 85 MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinEven working piecemeal, Democrats need a full agenda for children Poll: 30 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies On The Trail: Trump-inspired challengers target GOP governors MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonJames Webb telescope reaches final destination a million miles from Earth Overnight Energy & Environment — Earth records its hottest years ever Global temperatures in past seven years hottest ever observed, new data show MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden faces Ukraine decision amid Russia aggression The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark Emery Udall11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package MORE (D-Colo.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).
Kohl, Manchin, McCaskill, Sanders and both Ben and Bill Nelson face reelection in 2012.
The current stopgap funding measure expires on March 18.
After the votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.) did not respond when asked if he was surprised that the Republican bill secured more votes than the Democratic measure. He did say he wants to strike a deal that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, reiterating his opposition to passing stop-gap bills.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said spending negotiations would begin in earnest after the test votes forced senators to take public stances on the competing proposals.
“Once it is plain that both parties' opening bids in this budget debate are non-starters, we can finally get serious about sitting down and narrowing the huge gap that exists between the two sides,” Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Wednesday in a speech at the Center for American Progress.
Schumer said the votes would allow leaders to resume negotiations from a new perspective.
“So these failed votes today are an opportunity. After they happen, leaders on both sides will be able to convince their rank-and-file of the need to compromise, and we can start afresh,” he said. “We need to hit the reset button on the debate.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer requests Senate briefing on Ukraine amid Russia tensions Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections MORE (Ky.), however, accused the Democrats of not being serious about cutting spending.
“Paying lip service to the threat caused by the deficit is not a substitute for responsible leadership, and that job-destroying tax hikes on small businesses and American families are not the answer to out-of-control Washington spending,” McConnell said.
Wednesday’s votes did little to shed light on the impasse other than confirm that no senator is willing to buck his own party by teaming up with the other side.
Republican centrists voted for the House GOP proposal despite their misgivings.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks MORE (R-Maine) told The New York Times Tuesday: “There are a lot of cuts that I think are ill-advised. There are programs eliminated halfway during the year rather than phased out in an orderly fashion.”
Collins nevertheless voted for the package of cuts.
Democratic centrists said both bills failed to adequately address the nation’s budget crisis.
Manchin said Tuesday the Democratic plan “doesn’t go far enough” and “ignores our fiscal realities.”
But he said the House GOP plan was “even more flawed” because it “blindly hacks the budget with no sense of our priorities or of our values as a country.”
Sen. Ben Nelson criticized both proposals before the vote.
“Both bills are dead and they deserve to be dead,” said Nelson. “One cuts too little. The other bill has too much hate. Neither one is serious.”
Nelson criticized the House bill for restricting the use of ethanol in cars and trucks.
“Cutting back on ethanol at a time when gas prices are above $3.50 a gallon nationwide and rising fast is the wrong thing to do,” he said. “Worse, it’s a gift to foreign oil.”
House GOP leaders have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations on another short-term stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating beyond March 18.
A Senate aide close to the House GOP leadership said the measure would likely be similar to the two-week continuing resolution that cut $4 billion, which passed earlier this month.
House Republican leaders may take some of the $6.2 billion in cuts Senate Democrats included in the alternative package they put on the floor this week. The aide said it would be difficult for Democrats to vote against a short-term continuing resolution that includes the cuts they’ve proposed.
Democratic leaders, however, will insist on passing a long-term continuing resolution so they can concentrate on other legislative priorities, such as energy legislation and their jobs agenda.
Democrats also worry that passing a short-term government funding measure will force them to have to accept an additional round of cuts when it expires.
“I don’t like this death by a thousand cuts but I also don’t want a government shutdown,” Mikulski said last week.
House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) issued a statement after the Senate votes, saying the public
is "demanding that Washington rein in out-of-control federal spending"
and criticizing the Democratic plan.
"It’s time for Washington Democrats to present a serious plan to cut spending," he said. "In the meantime, Republicans will continue to keep our pledge to focus on the American people’s priorities: cutting spending and creating jobs.”
Josiah Ryan and Bob Cusack contributed to this article.
This story was first posted at 3:29 p.m. and most recently updated at 4:37 p.m.