Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., succeeded in mustering the votes to kill a spending bill Thursday, drawing sharp rebukes from Democrats.
Democratic leaders praised the ill-fated efforts of Transportation-HUD ranking member Susan Collins of Maine to oppose the GOP leadership-led filibuster effort.
Collins was the lone Republican to vote for the legislation she helped craft, and with a near-unanimous filibuster, McConnell showed at least temporary strength to keep his conference together and in rare alignment with House Republicans, who are arguing for sequestration-level appropriations caps.
Collins spent much of the vote lobbying colleagues futilely before the roll was called. She sat silently in a chair next to McConnell as he urged their colleagues to vote "no" and watched as Republicans, one-by-one, rejected her work. She walked off the floor before the vote was called.
The final tally was 54-43, short of the 60 votes needed to limit debate, with only Collins crossing the aisle.
"Sen. Collins, if nothing else, was shown no respect," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.
At one point, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., teased Collins that she was "watching us walk up in shame." He, like the rest of his colleagues, then proceeded to vote against the bill. The lobbying from both sides before the vote was so chaotic that at one point, Reid loudly pleaded with members to "sit down and shut up."
"Susan Collins stood up there in a real profile in courage," said Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.
Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., blasted what she called "strong-arm tactics" to block the Transportation-HUD bill by the Republican leadership.
Mikulski renewed the call for Republicans to consent to a budget conference to get a compromise top line spending number, noting that it is the budget resolution that's supposed to guide the appropriators.
"This shows exactly why Washington is not working, why we have not lowered our unemployment rate, why we're not improving our public safety on highways and on bridges, and are failing to meet our compelling human need in housing for the elderly and the disabled and the disadvantaged," Mikulski said.
McConnell said the takeaway should be that GOP senators are not prepared to undo the commitment for spending cuts made in enacting the 2011 budget law known as the Budget Control Act.
"It is no question that had cloture been invoked on this particular appropriation bill, which was even more than the president had asked for, your storyline tomorrow would have been Congress, on a bipartisan basis, walks away from the Budget Control Act," McConnell said.
Absent a broader budget deal, however, the Senate Transportation-HUD bill would be subject to a sequester.
Asked about what he thought the vote would portend for getting the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster attempt on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September, Reid signaled he wasn't sure.
"We have a cadre of Republicans that come on to the floor every day here in the Senate who are boasting about wanting to close the government, saying what difference does it make," Reid said, in a clear reference to recent comments by Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
Cruz compared a partial shutdown of the government caused by a lapse in appropriations to a long weekend.