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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Senate rejects two long-term funding bills, sending leaders back to negotiating table

By Felicia Sonmez and Lori Montgomery

Updated, 5:30 p.m.

Two competing government funding bills fell short in the Senate on Wednesday, sending congressional leaders and the White House back to the negotiating table to try to work out a budget compromise.

The failure of both measures, which had been anticipated by leaders in both parties, came as lawmakers are wrangling over a way forward on funding the government through Sept. 30. A current short-term funding measure, which was signed into law by President Obama last week, is set to expire on March 18.

The next steps are not clear. Republican leaders said no further talks have been scheduled with Democrats. Senate Democratic leaders met with the president at the White House Wednesday afternoon to plot strategy.

The first of the competing plans, which passed the House last month, would have cut $61 billion across federal agencies through the end of September; it failed on a 44 to 56 vote, with three Republicans joining all Democrats to oppose the measure. The three Republicans voting "no" -- Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) -- are all members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus who have called for deeper spending cuts.

All of the moderate Republicans in the Senate, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mark Kirk (Ill.), backed the measure. Several of those senators are up for re-election in 2012 and faced a tough choice in backing the bill, which would make deep cut to federal programs.

The second plan, put forth by Senate Democrats, would have cut less than $5 billion in federal spending. It failed Wednesday on a 42-to-58 vote -- winning even fewer votes than the House Republican bill. Eleven Democrats broke ranks to join Republicans in voting against the measure.

White House budget director Jack Lew called the votes "pretty significant." They established that "there aren't the votes there to go to the full level of the House bill."

Now, Lew said, "leaders on both sides need to work to middle ground and work to make additional savings" without going "across the line which from either party's view would be unacceptable."

Lew left the door open to another temporary resolution to fund the government past March 18, saying talks over the rest of the fiscal year may not be completed within the next week.

"There's broad consensus that we shouldn't shut the government down. We ought to be able to work our way through this," Lew said. "If there's not enough time to resolve a full year bill between now and next Friday, we're going to need to work toward a short-term agreement."

Meanwhile, in a speech Wednesday morning at the Center for American Progress, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for a "reset" in budget talks that would end the exclusive focus on discretionary programs, and expand the talks to include higher taxes and the entitlement programs that are driving deficits skyward.

"In the coming weeks, as the negotiations led by the White House reconvene, we should approach the talks with fresh eyes and a new mindset," Schumer said. "Rather than continuing the fixation on domestic discretionary cuts, the next offer and counteroffer should incorporate mandatory cuts and revenue raisers into the mix."

He added that "we will only put a dent in the deficit through shared sacrifice across all parts of the budget.... A bipartisan compromise simply will not be found in discretionary spending cuts alone."

House Republican leaders have suggested in recent days that another stopgap measure, similar to the one passed last week, may be necessary in order to avert a government shutdown on March 18.

Among the Democrats voting against the Senate Democratic plan on Wednesday were Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Jim Webb (Va.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Herb Kohl (Wis.); Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, also voted against the measure.

By Felicia Sonmez and Lori Montgomery  | March 9, 2011; 5:30 PM ET
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No Problem. The House should cut the rejected spending bill by $10 billion or more and submit it again to the Senate.

If they reject that the next proposal should bet cut $20 Billion of the last offer.

Keep doing that and they will eventually get the idea that the House is serious about reducing the budget.

Posted by: BlackGumTree | March 9, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

If Congress REALLY wants to gain the support of the people, they should do the following: 1) Take a 15% pay cut immediately; 2) Pay for 25% of their health insurance, not have it free on our dime; 3) pay for their food in the Congressional Cafeterias and pay for their haircuts and other percs which the taxpayers eat; 4) for those less that 500 miles from home, drive their cars or better yet, take a bus; stop acting so privileged. People in Congress put their pants and dress on the same way the common folk do. If they TRULY want to show they mean to cut the deficit, let them start at their home--their own wallets.

Posted by: diamond2 | March 9, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

We will not make any measurable impact on the deficit by hitting discretionary spending alone. It will never happen. Both Democrats and Republicans will have to accept 'responsible' cuts across all government programs, which includes defense and homeland security and entitlements. Schumer makes a valid point in that the government must also balance the cuts with increased government revenue. More revenue will reduce the extent of cuts that will be required.

As more Americans go back to work, as they slowly but surely are, the tax revenue will continue to increase. That would be payroll as well as sales as discretionary income increases.

The Senate are on the road to a reasonable compromise. I believe if we can minimize the deepness of cuts by way of increased revenue. The end zone will be in sight.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | March 9, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

well, no kidding we need revenue raisers.

There is no way on the face of this earth to fund two wars without raising revenue.

Of course, just a change in the tax code would go a long way. Remove all deductions and exemptions. You pay on your income, ALL income.

But that just makes too much sense. Besides, the new crop in the House are mostly millionaires. No way will they ever do anything against THEIR interests.

Just ours.

Posted by: taroya | March 9, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

A single B-2 bomber costs over $2.2 billion.
The daily cost of the two wars in Iraq and Afghan are estimated to be about $1.3 billion. That is over $1.3 trillion a year. And you wonder why we are broke?
The NFL is arguing around $6 billion.

Posted by: KBlit | March 9, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse


The TOP 100 US Corporation pay NO or very Little TAXES..

Exxon earned $35billion paid not Taxes and got a fat $140 million Tax Return..

REPUBLICAN STOP Dumping on our Country.

Get out and fight your own wars.

Posted by: RealConservativesPayTaxes | March 9, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The government is totally dysfunctional.

I'd place most of the members on psychotrophic drugs.

Posted by: Maddogg | March 9, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Biden is in Russia - he was tasked to get this bridged -- does he know that if the Government shuts down he's going to be stuck there forever ... 6 months are over in a year -- we don't need a budget!

Posted by: free_np | March 9, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Um...when the 10-year, $70 billion per year tax cut we just handed rich people who don't need nor spend it gets rescinded, THEN talk all the other crap.

Almost half the members of the House and Senate are millionaires. America, are these the types of mostly-corporately controlled rich jerks who you really want making all of these decisions?

Posted by: 2229 | March 9, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

A poster mentions "two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan": what "war" in Iraq? Who are we "at war" with there? From all reports our 47,000 soldiers there are sitting in their bases, basically twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do. The Iraqis never ask for any "assistance," from all reports I've seen.

So, someone should explain why our troops are still there? Isn't the trillion dollars already wasted, and all the lives lost and all the wounded/maimed (both American and Iraqi) enough already?

Posted by: Rigged | March 9, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

So far the Boner-led House Teapublicans have done nothing but read an edited version of the Constitution on C SPAN, pass a ceremonial repeal of Health Care Reform, pass a couple of stupid anti abortion bills and promise to waste taxpayer money defending the bigotted DOMA act in court....

I've got news for the extremist Republican party:

Now that you have some actual power again (the House) you won't be able to get away with spending all of your time throwing verbal bombs at the Dems, going golfing and then hitting the DC cocktail circuit at night every day.

You either CREATE JOBS or you will be gone in 2012 so fast that your heads will spin!

Chop chop Repugs!

You've got two years!

Time's a wastin'!


Posted by: DrainYou | March 9, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are going about this all wrong. Republicans want to trim a measely $60 billion from a $1.5 trillion, but do so with the maximum pain to the American public.

Democrats should identify $120 billion in Republican sacred cows, mostly corporate welfare, and cut that, along with tax relief for millionaires and bloated contracts to Beltway Bandits. When House Republicans refuse to accept twice the deficit reduction, it will show Americans that Republicans care more about protecting their Corporate Masters than in providing effective government.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 9, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Apparently we need to get some adult leadership in our Congress. Both sides are led by morons and the rank-and-file members are proving to be morons too for letting the leadership be morons.

Posted by: michael49 | March 9, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

It's long past time that the Senate took another look at the corporate loopholes that have allowed some major corporations to pay less in taxes than any of the individuals who clean their toilets.

And it is LONG past time that the oil companies lost their subsidies -- clearly from their profits, these subsidies are no longer needed ----- if they ever were.

And, after four months of moaning since the election and two months since Congress came back into session of nothing, WHERE, REPUBLICANS, ARE THE JOBS THAT YOU SAID WOULD BE YOUR TOP PRIORITY? And where is the replacement for Obamacare that was also supposed to be your top priority?

Posted by: edallan | March 9, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

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