As part of an agreement between the parties, the Senate voted Wednesday afternoon on a House-passed bill which would make $61 billion in cuts to federal spending, as well as a Democratic-backed bill which would make $6.5 billion in cuts. Both bills would have extended federal funding, which is set to expire on March 18, until September 30, the end of the fiscal year. The Republican bill failed, 44-56, while the Democratic bill failed 42-58—both short of a simple majority, not to mention the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the bill in the Senate. [See editorial cartoons about the budget and the deficit.]
Ten Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with them, broke with the party to vote against the second funding resolution. Most of the defectors came from the party’s moderate wing, claiming that the bill didn’t go far enough to trim federal spending. “I believe the Democratic proposal also falls short, because the cuts are not substantial enough,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, explaining why she voted against the bill. Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin also voted against the bill, saying in a released statement, “It deals only with cuts in nondefense discretionary spending, and as a result it gives support to a pattern of debating only spending cuts as the solution to our deficits, when in fact the solution to this problem must include additional revenue as well.” The Republican bill had three defectors as well. “Both approaches do not significantly alter or delay the crisis that’s coming,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the three, explaining why he voted against both bills. [See 10 looming budget and spending fights for Obama and the GOP.]
Without an agreement to continue funding, the federal government will shut down on March 19. Both sides have said they are working on a compromise deal to prevent a shutdown and continue funding through the end of the fiscal year.