Senate rejects Democratic, Republican spending plans

government spending, money, debt, deficit, budget

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

The Senate today rejected two federal budget proposals, sending sending a message to Congress' more ideological members that they will have to broker a compromise plan to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year.

First, the Senate by a vote of 44 to 56 rejected a bill passed in the GOP-led House that would fund the government for the next seven months but slash $61 billion. Democrats complained the cuts to federal agencies -- hitting everything from border security to cancer research and food safety inspectors -- were too draconian.

While the bill made historic cuts that illustrated the influence of the Tea Party, the three Republicans who voted against the bill were some of the Senate's most conservative: Tea Party freshmen Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with Jim DeMint of South Carolina. All Democrats and independents also voted against it.

DeMint said he opposed the bill because cutting this year's budget by $61 billion would only reduce this year's deficit by 4 percent, CBS News producer John Nolen reports. Paul said the same.

"If we were to adopt the president's approach, we would have $1.65 trillion deficit in one year. If we were to adopt the House approach, we're going to have a $1.55 trillion deficit in one year," Paul said in a statement. "I think both approaches do not significantly alter or delay the crisis that's coming."

Following that vote, the Senate rejected an alternate Democratic plan that would cut about $5 billion. Republicans, from the moment the White House put forward the plan, called it unacceptable.

That plan was voted down by a vote of 42 to 58.

"We can't keep delaying, we can't keep promising to do something tomorrow. We have a vote today. We need to act today," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said on the Senate floor today. "A vote for the Democratic proposal is a vote to do nothing. It's a vote to stay in denial. It's a vote that says deficits don't matter."

Several Democrats -- mostly moderates -- broke from their party to join Republicans against the Democratic measure. They included Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Udall of Colorado, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Jim Webb of Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Bill Nelson of Florida. Independent socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats, also voted against it.

Today's votes presented a quandary for the Senate's moderates who wanted to prove their interest in deficit reduction without going too far.

McCaskill, who is up for re-election next, year, said today that the cuts in the Democratic plan were "not substantial enough," the Hill reports.

"They represent another $6.5 on top of the $4 billion we've already cut, and I think we need to do more than the Democratic proposal falls short," she said

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine released a long statement today explaining that she strongly opposed some of the cuts in the Republican bill, particularly the "deep and immediate cuts to critical low-income heating assistance, weatherization, and Head Start programs."

"I am left with a choice between a proposal that doesn't go nearly far enough and one that makes many wrong choices," she said.

Sanders told CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes on CBSNews.com's Washington Unplugged that he'd rather see a deficit reduction plan that includes some spending cuts, a surtax on incomes over a $1 million and the elimination of corporate tax loopholes.

"I think it is unfair to move toward a balanced budget on the backs of the middle class and working families or the most vulnerable people in society, especially when my Republican friends are fighting for tax breaks for billionaires," he said.

With both proposals rejected, Congress has little more than a week to come up with a new plan before the federal government shuts down on March 18. House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy said this week that Republicans are already preparing a new funding bill to keep operations open for two to three more weeks with cuts of about $2 billion per week.

After that, however, the White House is interested in seeing a budget pass for the rest of the year, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson reported yesterday. The administration recognizes that if Congress continues to pass short-term spending measures on Republican terms, it could add up to significant budget cuts.

At a speech at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress this morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explained how two failed votes could be seen as a "breakthrough."

"Once it is plain that both party's opening bids in this budget debate are non-starters, we can finally get serious about sitting down and narrowing the huge gap that exists between the two sides," he said.

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