Majority Whip Dick Durbin said todays Senate votes will show that the House continuing resolution cutting $61 billion in spending cannot pass.
Senate Democrats and House Republicans said Senate votes as soon as today on competing stopgap spending bills could break their impasse over how to fund the government through Sept. 30.
The expected votes — one on the Republicans’ House-passed proposal and the second on a Senate Democratic alternative — are partly designed to send a message to conservative freshmen that a compromise is necessary. The House bill calls for $61 billion in spending cuts, while the Senate plan offers $10.5 billion in reductions.
Late Monday afternoon, Senate leaders were considering holding side-by-side votes on the House-passed bill and the Senate Democratic alternative. Under an agreement that had not been finalized as of press time, each proposal would require a 60-vote threshold, and aides expected that neither bill would pass.
Instead, the votes are meant to lay down markers for the real negotiations over a long-term spending plan. Republicans have rejected the Democratic proposal as insufficient, while Democrats have said the House GOP measure goes too far. President Barack Obama dispatched Vice President Joseph Biden, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and Chief of Staff William Daley to the Hill last week to kick off talks among leaders on a long-term budget deal, but most observers said any real negotiations are on hold until after today’s votes.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said the vote on the House-passed proposal would “demonstrate to Republicans in the House” that it “is not going to be passed in the Senate.”
“I think many of the veterans in the House know that, but some of the new Members may not,” the Illinois Democrat said. “If H.R. 1 does not get 60 votes ... I’m sure that Speaker Boehner will be sitting down with the caucus and saying ... ‘What’s our next position? Where do we go from here?’”
Aides on both sides said the path forward is still unclear.
House Republicans said the Senate votes could help educate freshmen about the stark realities of Congress.
Leadership aides explained that for much of the GOP Conference, which includes 87 new Members, the word compromise is synonymous with defeat. “For a lot of them ‘compromise’ means compromising their principles,” one aide said.
The aide added that over the coming weeks, Republican leaders will have to do their best to explain to Members that it’s OK to accept spending cuts less than the $61 billion, and that it does not mean Republicans are capitulating.
“If you strive for the stars and fail, at some level you have to be OK with striving for what’s achievable and doing a victory lap” once you’ve won, a GOP aide said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.