Senate rejects dueling partisan budgets

March 9, 2011 at 4:47 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Wednesday rejected two partisan spending proposals, setting up a stalemate that must be resolved within days to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate voted 44-56 against a GOP House bill that would have cut another $57 billion from the 2011 budget. No Democrats voted for that measure, with three Senate Republicans -- Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah -- also opposing the bill, The Hill reported.

The Senate also voted 42-58 against a measure from Democrats that would have cut $6.2 billion. Ten Democrats voted against that measure.

"Once it is plain that both parties' 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," Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Wednesday at the Center for American Progress.

An aide to Vice President Joe Biden said he spoke to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before the votes and "will continue to stay in close contact with congressional leaders on the budget negotiations throughout the week." Biden returns to Washington from Moscow Friday.

The stopgap measure President Barack Obama signed March 2 expires March 18.

The votes give congressional leaders and the Obama administration time to talk more about how to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, The Wall Street Journal and Politico said.

Obama said last week he would get more involved in the talks and appointed Biden to lead the negotiations. Biden is in Europe this week for meetings with foreign leaders.

Lawmakers reached the point of voting after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans Tuesday of reneging on an agreement last week to hold side-by-side votes on the two proposals and said GOP senators were afraid to vote on the "Tea Party plan" that House Republicans approved Feb. 19.

House Republicans said they lacked faith the Senate would act by March 18, so they're preparing another short-term spending bill to keep the government open.

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