Senate rejects dueling spending plans, leaves legislative stalemate

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.
 

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Three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus also opposed the bill: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn The Money: Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl | Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term | Left-leaning group raises concerns about SALT cap repeal Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBig Tech set to defend app stores in antitrust hearing Hillicon Valley: Apple approves Parler's return to App Store | White House scales back response to SolarWinds, Microsoft incidents | Pressure mounts on DHS over relationship with Clearview AI 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban 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 BennetOvernight Energy: Biden reportedly will pledge to halve US emissions by 2030 | Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution Democrats get good news from IRS Senators press for answers in Space Command move decision MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganBiden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The two women who could 'cancel' Trump 10 under-the-radar races to watch in November MORE (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data Michigan GOP unveils dozens of election overhaul bills after 2020 loss How President Biden can hit a home run MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan On The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban Miners union to back Biden on green energy if it retains jobs MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHas the Biden administration abandoned the idea of a moon base? Cuba readies for life without Castro Why does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersNewsmax host: Jury decided to 'sacrifice' Chauvin to the mob Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallKennedy 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 Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' 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 Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison White House races clock to beat GOP attacks 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 SchumerLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson pause seen as 'responsible' in poll | Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party 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 McConnellMcConnell vents over 'fake news' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Trump looking 'beyond seriously' at 2024 run 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 CollinsCollins joins Democrats in bid to undo Trump methane emissions rollback Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term 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 BoehnerCantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' 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.