Budget Wars: Both Parties Claim Victory In Wake of Senate Votes That Changed Absolutely Nothing

Mar 10, 2011 1:21pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports:

Now that the Senate has shot down both parties’ spending proposals for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, will lawmakers actually start to make some headway on a long-term funding deal since the government is set to shut down in eight days?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today argued that yesterday’s “exercise wasn’t in vain” because it proved that “one party alone will not reach a resolution without the other’s consent.”

“We accept the lessons of yesterday’s vote,” he said on the Senate floor. “We know we’ll have to make a sacrifice to reach consensus and we are willing to do that.”

The Senate’s number-three Democrat Chuck Schumer went a step further, claiming that the votes “strengthened our hand” because it demonstrated that the House-passed spending bill – that would cut $57 billion over the next six months – was “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Now the Democrats would like to see a new offer from the GOP.

“We’re looking for some give on the Republican side,” Schumer said. “Where are they willing to meet us? That has to be the next step in this debate."

In addition, he quipped, the 44 Senate Republicans who voted for the House GOP spending plan “had more reservations than a Motel 6.”

However, those 44 votes in favor of the GOP plan were two more than the Democrats managed to get for their own plan, despite the Democrats’ 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. 11 Democrats, including Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, broke with their party, with many of them arguing that the Democrats’ proposal to cut $4.7 billion did not make nearly as many spending cuts as it should have.

“The Senate has not gone far enough. It is frankly disappointing to me,” said McCaskill, who is up for re-election next year. “I still think that there are way too many people in denial around here about the nature of the problem and how serious it is. And I don't think we're demonstrating to the American people that we understand the nature of the problem when we present an alternative proposal with such a small number of cuts.”

That message for Democrats – “get serious” – was one repeated time and time again by House Speaker John Boehner today.

“It’s time for Democrats here in Washington to get serious about these budget negotiations,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference.

Right now the chances of both parties agreeing on a long-term spending deal before next Saturday appear slim to none. But that doesn’t mean that a government shutdown is in the cards: lawmakers may sign off on another short-term funding extension – in all likelihood continuing to cut $2 billion a week – to buy themselves at least three more weeks to reach a long-term agreement.

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