Senate to Vote on Competing CRs

Posted March 4, 2011 at 12:49pm

The Senate will vote next week on competing Republican and Democratic spending plans for the rest of the year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday.

A meeting with Congressional leaders and Vice President Joseph Biden on Thursday ended without a breakthrough, with the two sides about $50 billion apart.

The vote, like an earlier vote on health care repeal, is expected to show that cuts on the scale Republicans are demanding cannot get through the Senate.

“Everyone knows it’s not going to pass,” Reid said of HR 1. Reid called the House bill “one of the worst pieces of legislation… in the history of this Congress.”

Reid said that Congressional leaders agreed to vote on Democratic and Republican proposals next week, although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected to a request to bring up the bill until Republicans have a chance to digest the new Democratic proposal over the weekend. McConnell earlier had slammed the latest level of cuts proposed by Democrats and the White House as inadequate.

In the meantime, it remains unclear what the next move would be to avoid a government shutdown in two weeks. If no deal is reached, House Republicans have suggested they might pass another short-term bill with additional cuts.

“We know neither will reach the president’s desk as written,” Reid said. “We’ll end up back at square one” once the votes are held next week, he said. He urged both sides to “come together, negotiate in good faith.”

“We’re willing to do more, but we’re not willing to do this with a meat axe,” Reid said. Reid also said that he was told that a House Republican who has a child with Down’s syndrome voted for the bill without knowing it cut funding for children with disabilities.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye announced his version of the CR Friday, cutting $51 billion from President Barack Obama’s budget request versus the $100 billion in cuts in the House CR.

“In contrast to the House bill, the Senate proposal will allow the government to continue operating at reduced levels without major disruptions that would set back our economic recovery and eliminate countless American jobs,” the Hawaii Democrat said in a statement.

“The House bill would cause backlogs in Social Security claims, undermine nuclear weapons safety, remove more than 200,000 children from Head Start, and close poison control centers across America,” Inouye said.

Earlier Friday, however, McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) dismissed the latest proposal from Democrats as inadequate. Cantor said the White House-blessed plan falls “far short.”

“The visions of each party cannot be more clear, but I am hopeful that as negotiations continue, Democrats will finally listen to people who want real solutions to the economic challenges facing our country,” Cantor said in a statement.

The Senate Democratic plan cuts $2.1 billion more from Defense than the Republican proposal, but restores funds to a host of domestic programs, including border security, clean energy, foreign aid, scientific research, education and dozens of other programs.