Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had intended to hold separate test votes on competing spending plans, but Senate Republicans refuse to vote on the GOP alternative, Reid says.
Reid says he expected to bring up both the budget House Republicans approved last month, and a Democratic alternative. He expected both to fail to win enough support to pass, but thought the votes would serve as a basis for further negotiation.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans must agree to a budget by March 18 in order to avoid a government shutdown.
The bill House Republicans passed would keep the government running through September, but at a price of more than $61 billion in deep cuts to a swath of federal programs. Lawmakers have turned to budget-cutting with new zeal in the name of taming the mounting federal budget deficit.
President Obama and Senate Democrats have objected to the House GOP version, however, because of cuts Reid calls “reckless.” He says it would lead to 700,000 Americans losing their jobs, as well as knock 200,000 children out of Head Start childhood programs and other reductions in key services.
“In other words, the Republican plan they want to push through the Senate is all smoke and mirrors. It cuts the deficit in the name of a stronger future, but cuts the most important ways we strengthen our future. It’s counterproductive, and it’s bad policy,” Reid says.
“Their plan slashes billions from the budget and hopes no one will look past the price tag. Because Republicans know that once the country sees what’s in the fine print, it will run away from it as fast as they can,” he adds. “Now it seems Republicans themselves must have finally read their own budget. Because now even they’re running away from it.”
Senate Republicans have gone back on their word and now refuse to vote on the House version, Reid says.
“We agreed to hold a vote on the Republican plan – H.R. 1 – and then vote on the Democratic plan, which makes much smarter cuts and more solid investments. Then we would return to the negotiating table and try again to find common ground,” he says.
“That was the deal. But now Republicans are reneging on that deal. They don’t want to vote on their own bill,” Reid says. “As I’ve said before, the budget we outline – and our votes on that budget – reflect our values. Values like helping our nation recover and prosper, giving our children a strong education, encouraging innovation, and keeping America competitive.
“Another value I hold dear is keeping one’s word. Where I come from, people keep their word. I’m disappointed the Republicans refuse to keep theirs.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell shot back on the Senate floor Tuesday, defending the House bill and attacking the Democratic alternative.
“One is a serious effort to rein in wasteful Washington spending that’s gotten completely out of control. The other, by our Democrat friends, is a proposal so unserious that even its supporters have been forced to exaggerate its impact, something they’ve been called out on repeatedly by the press,” McConnell says.
As to when a vote would occur on the dueling budgets, McConnell only would say it would be “at some point this week.”
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.