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Reid, McConnell Set Vote on Short-Term Debt Bill; Portman Amendment Tabled

James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on Armed Services, offered an amendment to give the Pentagon authority to reprogram, or move, funds from one budget account to another in response to the automatic spending cuts under the sequester, but that amendment was not included in the agreement on votes.

Inhofe pitched his idea at a lunch with GOP senators Wednesday. “We’d like to do everything we can to keep the sequester from happening. We want to have some alternatives in place, just in case,” Inhofe said.

Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland said Democrats were unlikely to support GOP amendments to the debt limit extension, including proposals related to Pentagon spending cuts.

The House passed the debt limit measure on a 285-144 vote on Jan. 23 after Republican leaders dropped their insistence that any debt limit increase be accompanied by an equivalent amount of spending cuts. Most of the “no” votes were cast by Democrats.

While leaders of both parties agree on the need for a debt limit increase, they have sharply disagreed on the framework for talks aimed at reducing the budget deficit and the growth of the national debt. Democrats want a blend of spending cuts and new revenue to deal with the deficit and to replace automatic fiscal 2013 spending cuts mandated by the 2011 debt deal (PL 112-25) that are scheduled to begin March 1. Republicans have called for a focus on spending cuts.

“We can take on this challenge together if both sides are ready to do the necessary work to reform spending. But we need to get started today — not next week, not in April,” McConnell said Wednesday.

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