Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday evening that an agreement had been reached to hold a vote Wednesday afternoon on the House-passed continuing resolution to fund the government through Sept. 30.
The agreement the Nevada Democrat reached with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) avoided a showdown vote at 1 a.m. Wednesday over competing spending plans.
Floor debate on the measure and a Democratic alternative will open around noon, with a vote on passage of the GOP spending bill at about 3 p.m., Reid said. If the bill is not passed, the chamber will then vote on the Democratic measure.
According to the agreement, 60 votes will be needed to pass either bill, but neither is expected to reach that threshold. The votes are no longer considered procedural votes that, if successful, would be followed by an up-or-down vote requiring only 51 votes for passage.
“Even though there have been a few turns in the road, we’re where we need to be,” Reid said in floor remarks.
Before the agreement, the Senate was headed for a 1 a.m. procedural vote on the continuing resolution that the House passed Feb. 19. As Democrats and Republicans continued Tuesday to spar over federal spending, Reid told reporters that Democrats were eager to vote on the House bill, which would cut $61 billion from current spending levels.
The Nevada Democrat said it would highlight the GOP’s reckless disregard for job creation and signaled that its certain defeat would pave the way for negotiations on a compromise.
“The Republicans are so desperate to satisfy this really narrow base that they have, they’re willing to sacrifice American jobs just for them,” Reid said. “They’re destroying jobs.”
McConnell countered that the government was running a historic deficit and that the spending that led to that shortfall had not measurably reduced unemployment that stood at 8.9 percent at the end of February.
“If government spending would stimulate the economy, we’d be in the middle of a boom,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We’ve added $3 trillion to the debt in the last two years, we spent almost $1 trillion on a stimulus package. If government spending was going to fix this economy and create jobs, we’d be in the middle of a boom.”
In addition to hammering Senate Democrats on government spending, the Republicans attacked President Barack Obama for what they deemed a failure to lead on both the federal budget and a recent escalation in gas prices.
“The question we have on the federal debt is, where’s the president of the United States?” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said.
“The average price of gasoline is north of $3.50,” added National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas). “And, this is an area where the president has simply failed to lead on national energy policy, which threatens our fragile economic recovery.”
Meanwhile, Reid said that he was opposed to another shorter-term CR that would kick in March 18, when the current two-week CR expires, to allow more time for House Republicans and Senate Democrats to negotiate a compromise on a CR that would fund the government through the end of fiscal 2011. House Republicans revealed earlier Tuesday that they are writing such a bill in case it is needed to avert a government shutdown.