Spending plan vote backfires as Democrats suffer defections

Spending plan vote backfires as Democrats suffer defections

Senate Democrats suffered a wave of defections Wednesday as their proposal to cut just over $6 billion from federal spending this year went down to defeat. 

The Democratic bill attracted two fewer votes than the rival GOP measure that would cut spending by another $57 billion this year. The 11 defections will give Republican leaders ammunition in subsequent talks, as they were able to keep their caucus more unified. 

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The GOP measure lost by a vote of 44 to 56, while the Democratic bill was rejected, 42-58.

“Eleven Senate Democrats just voted against their leadership’s proposal,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ohio).  “The bill supported by Sen. Reid ...  proved less popular than the ‘draconian’ House Republican proposal in the Democrat-controlled Senate.”

Democrats had referred to the GOP proposal as draconian during the debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Supreme Court vacancy — yet another congressional food fight Trump seeks to turn around campaign with Supreme Court fight On The Trail: Battle over Ginsburg replacement threatens to break Senate MORE (D-Nev.) last week said it was one of the worst pieces of legislation in the history of the Congress.

Reid had hoped for a game-changer with votes that showed senators closer to the Democratic plan than the one backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), but the plan backfired. 

After the votes, Reid 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.

The GOP bill did not receive a single Democratic vote. Three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus also voted no: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package McConnell tries to unify GOP Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Utah).

Republican centrists who support abortion rights, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot MORE (Maine), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (Ill.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), backed the House bill, even though it would strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Brown and Snowe are up for reelection in 2012, though Snowe is viewed more vulnerable in a primary than in the general election. When a reporter inquired about her vote, noting the Tea Party is targeting her next year, Snowe smiled and said, “Are they really?”

The Democratic plan, which would have cut $6.2 billion in federal spending, lost 10 Democrats and one Independent member — more than many Senate insiders expected. Every Republican opposed it.

Earlier this week, Reid said that he believed the “vast majority” of his caucus would vote for the Democratic alternative.

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Next crisis, keep people working and give them raises MORE (D-Colo.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinMichigan to pay 0M to victims of Flint water crisis Unintended consequences of killing the filibuster Inspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 MORE (D-Mich.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, GOP allies prepare for SCOTUS nomination this week Trump meets with potential Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett at White House Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Democratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally MORE (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson MORE (D-Fla.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Bernie Sanders warns of 'nightmare scenario' if Trump refuses election results Harris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE (I-Vt.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump MORE (D-Colo.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.), a mix of centrists and liberals, voted against their leadership for different reasons.

The White House said the failed votes showed that both parties must come together to find common ground.

“There is no disagreement that we have to cut spending, which is why we have already agreed to meet Republicans halfway and have indicated our willingness to do more,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “But, we need to ensure we cut responsibly, and that we don’t undermine growth and competitiveness by cutting investments in education and research and development.”

Not all of the Democrats who voted against their party’s measure want their leaders to agree to deeper spending cuts.

Levin said lawmakers need to look at raising taxes and not just at cuts to domestic spending as a means to reduce the deficit.

“It deals only with cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, and as a result it gives support to a pattern of debating only spending cuts as the solution to our deficits, when in fact the solution to this problem must include additional revenue as well,” Levin said.

Sanders made a similar argument.

“I voted against the Democratic proposal because, if the Democrats are serious about deficit reduction, they have to raise revenue along with spending cuts,” he said.

Other Democrats facing reelection said their party leaders need to act more aggressively to cut the projected $1.6 trillion federal deficit.

“There is not enough deficit reduction in the Democratic alternative. We need to do better,” said Kohl.

Manchin, who criticized a lack of leadership from President Obama earlier this week in the spending fight, said 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.”


Ben Nelson criticized both proposals before the vote. “Both bills are dead and they deserve to be dead,” he said. “One cuts too little. The other bill has too much hate. Neither one is serious.”


Kohl, Manchin, McCaskill, Sanders, Ben Nelson and Bill Nelson are facing reelection in 2012.

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.

The current stopgap funding measure runs through March 18.

“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 SchumerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Schumer interrupted during live briefing by heckler: 'Stop lying to the people' Jacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee MORE (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Wednesday in a speech at the Center for American Progress.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE (Ky.), however, accused 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 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 point the way to a possible solution to the stalemate. Instead, it confirmed 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.

Collins 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.”

Josiah Ryan and Bob Cusack contributed to this article.