Spending Debate Continues After Senate Rejects House GOP Plan

BY Quinn Bowman  March 9, 2011 at 3:35 PM EST

The Senate rejected H.R. 1, the temporary spending measure that would fund the federal government through Sept. 30 while cutting about $57 billion from current spending levels, setting the stage for a new round of negotiations over how to fund the federal government.

The measure failed to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold, with 44 in favor to 56 opposed. Tea Party-affiliated Republican Senators. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Jim DeMint of South Carolina joined with Democrats to defeat the measure.

The Senate also rejected a Democratic amendment that would fund the government while cutting approximately $4.7 billion in expenditures. That measure failed 42 to 58.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized the Democrats for not committing to cut enough spending.

“This week’s debate is just a dress rehearsal for the big stuff – and so far Democrats are showing they’re just not up to it. They either lack the stomach or the courage, and the president, as members of his own party point out, is nowhere to be found on the issue,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday supporting the Senate Democrats’ amendment and opposing passage of H.R. 1.

“If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions, contains earmarks, or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation while continuing to burden future generations with deficits, the President will veto the bill,” the statement said.

Democrats attacked H.R. 1 as a draconian measure that would cut money for education and job programs, while doing little to deal with long-term deficits.

“Cuts to domestic discretionary spending will do nothing to spur jobs or short-term economic growth,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during Wednesday’s debate. “These cuts will harm our ability to pay for the future.”

Now that the House Republicans’ spending measure has been officially rejected by the Senate, leaders in Congress and the White House are tasked with coming up with a compromise on how to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

On the same day as the votes on both spending measures, Senate Democrats met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the negotiations.

House Republican leaders gave a press conference Wednesday morning in which they pressured Mr. Obama to get more involved in the debate. House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. repeatedly asked “Where is the president?”

The federal government is currently being funded by a stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, that lasts until March 18. That measure cut $4 billion from 2010 spending levels, and was necessary because Senate Democrats and the Obama administration would not support H.R. 1, which was passed in February in the House.

Another short-term measure could be necessary in order to avoid a government shut down if the House, Senate and White House cannot agree on a spending compromise by March 18.

With the official failure of H.R. 1 in the Senate, negotiations will likely center on finding middle ground between the total of $61 billion in cuts supported by House Republicans and the approximately $9 billion in cuts supported by Democratic leaders in the Senate and the White House.