Fight Over Federal Cuts Moves To Senate

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The Senate was supposed to vote Tuesday on the House Republican plan to cut $61 billion from discretionary spending in 2011 — as well as a Democratic plan that cuts $4.7 billion. But it seems GOP senators who had demanded a vote may be having second thoughts about the House bill. Now, they're saying not so fast. An after-hours vote could come very late tonight.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

First, it was the House; now, the Senate. That's where the fight has moved over how much money to cut from federal programs this year. For weeks, Republicans demanded that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, take a vote on the bill passed last month by the GOP-run House. It makes deep cuts in domestic spending. Now, in a sudden reversal, it's the Democrats insisting on a vote.

As NPR's David Welna reports, they sensed public opinion is on their side.

DAVID WELNA: The Senate is set to consider two proposals. One is the continuing resolution, or CR, that House Republicans passed. It keeps the federal government in business until October, but reduces current spending levels by $61 billion.

The other was put forward by Senate Democrats. It, too, keeps the government open until the end of the fiscal year, but trims only about $4.5 billion from spending. Neither side, though, likes the other's version.

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker says both proposed budgets are nonstarters.

SIEGEL: The Republican version likely will not pass. The Democratic version likely will not pass. And then hopefully, we will sit down and work out something to allow government to be open again for, hopefully, the long-term CR.

WELNA: Even though it won't likely get approved, Democrats are still keen to hold a vote on the bill passed by the House, which takes aim at popular programs such as Head Start and the Clean Air Act.

Dick Durbin is the Senate's number two Democrat.

SIEGEL: We want to show, on the record, that H.R. 1, the House Republican budget, is so bad that it cannot pass the Senate, and that those in the House that have taken this position have to understand that they have to sit down and negotiate in a reasonable way so that we can do our work and not close down the government.

WELNA: But Republicans have been reluctant to agree to holding a vote. That's despite a deal that Majority Leader Harry Reid says was made last Thursday, brokered by Vice President Biden, which called for the Senate to vote on both the bill with the deeper cuts passed by the House, and the bill with the smaller cuts proposed by Democrats.

SIEGEL: There is no question that was the agreement made. No question, that was the deal. But now, Republicans are reneging on that deal. They don't want to vote on their own bill. They want some procedural votes.

WELNA: Here's what Republican leader Mitch McConnell had to say when asked this afternoon when the Senate will vote on the competing proposals.

SIEGEL: We'll be voting on both proposals sometime in the next day or so.

WELNA: Senate GOP leaders said they felt confident their fellow Republicans would line up behind the bill passed by their House colleagues. Not so, said Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who nonetheless refused to explain why he plans to vote against the GOP bill.

SIEGEL: I'm just not going to get into it. I've got to get to lunch.

WELNA: Not all Democrats are on board with their own party's proposal , either. West Virginia's Joe Manchin plans to vote against both proposals.

SIEGEL: Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations, our president, has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?

WELNA: The White House asserted the president is showing that leadership, and is serious about the need to cut spending where possible.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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