Votes on rival budget-cutting packages failed on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, and the focus shifts now to bipartisan negotiations on a compromise bill funding the government for the remainder of the year.
The House-passed continuing resolution that would cut $61 billion from current spending garnered 44 votes in favor, while a Democratic alternative cutting about $10 billion received 42. Each measure needed 60 votes.
Both sides suffered defections, but the Republican ”no” votes came from three conservative Senators who wanted even deeper cuts than the $61 billion. The votes against the Democratic plan included both moderates demanding deeper cuts and liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who wants to raise taxes on the wealthy before cutting programs for the middle class.
The next step is unclear. Although Democratic leaders huddled at the White House with President Barack Obama before the votes to talk about strategy, they declined to discuss the meeting or lay out a path for resuming negotiations with Republicans.
Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) repeated his statement from earlier Wednesday that the most sensible path forward to a deal is to open up the discussion beyond domestic discretionary spending to include cuts in mandatory programs as well as revenue increases. Now that both sides’ bills have failed, negotiations should begin as soon as possible, he said.
“We needed to show today that neither side could pass a bill in the Senate,” he added.
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.