Demanding budget talks, Senate Dems block spending bill for military

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked spending legislation for the Pentagon, part of a broader strategy aimed at forcing Republicans to the table for budget negotiations.

Senators voted 50-45 to end debate on a motion to proceed to the legislation, short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) was the only Democrat to vote yes.

{mosads}Democratic leaders were open about their intention to block the bill, having made the threat repeatedly in the days before the vote.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday morning that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knew “full well” that Democrats wouldn’t support the defense bill, or any other spending bill, until lawmakers reach a budget deal. 

“Instead of working with us to forge a solution that can pass both houses and be signed into law, Republicans are plowing ahead with an appropriations process that is designed to fail,” Reid said.

Reid, as well as Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), sent a letter Thursday to McConnell and other members of the Republican leadership urging them to start budget negotiations “immediately” next week.

Republican leadership has largely brushed off Democrats’ threats while accusing Reid of pursuing a “filibuster summer” aimed at grinding the upper chamber to a halt.

Asked earlier this month about the Democrats’ budget summit idea, McConnell suggested that now wasn’t the right time.

The Republican leader also tried to pressure Democrats into backing the spending bill, noting that many of them had already voted for a bill authorizing the programs within it.

“I’m sure every Democratic colleague who just voted to make promises to our troops will want to actually fulfill those promises by voting for the defense appropriation bill as well,” he said from the Senate floor. 

McConnell voted against moving forward with the spending bill on Thursday, a procedural move that allows him to bring it back up for another vote.

Senate Democrats have maintained their objections to taking up the defense spending bill, with Reid saying Thursday they were “willing to meet with Republicans any time, any place.” McConnell, he said, should “drop this sham process.” 

President Obama also weighed in ahead of the vote, threatening to veto the bill over an extra $38 billion in Pentagon spending that would be channeled through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. That “war fund” was set up after the 9/11 attacks to pay for the military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the other side of the Capitol Thursday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused Democrats of trying to block military pay raises. 

“I get that Democrats want to spend more — they always do — but that shouldn’t get in the way of fulfilling our most serious responsibilities. Our troops come first. Save the politics for another day,” he said in a video.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said it was “outrageous” that Democrats blocked the spending bill on the basis that, “no matter what the worldwide situation is, there has to be equity in spending.”

“In the five years of Senator Reid’s leadership there could have been 60 appropriations bills on the Senate floor,” Blunt said. “There were three.”

Blunt said McConnell should turn up the heat on Democrats by allowing more spending bills to come to the floor and letting “the minority stand in the way of debating the bills and funding the government.”

— This story was updated at 3:40 p.m.

Tags Boehner Charles Schumer Dick Durbin Harry Reid Joe Donnelly John Boehner Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Roy Blunt

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