Senate Blocks $54 Billion Transportation, Housing Bill

Senate Republicans blocked a $54 billion transportation and housing bill Thursday afternoon right before heading into a month-long recess this weekend.

The Senate voted 54-43, six votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for housing and transportation agencies.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the lone Republican who voted in favor of moving forward with the bill and urged her colleagues to follow suit.

"Think very carefully bout this vote," Collins said. "It would be so unfortunate if we go home to our constituents in August and are forced to tell them that we're unable to do our job."

The failed vote was a victory for Republicans and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who had stepped up his opposition to the bill in recent days.

"The vote we just had was, symbolically, very, very significant," McConnell said after the vote. "There is no question that if cloture had been invoked on this particular appropriations bill, which was even more than what the president asked for, your storyline tomorrow would have been Congress, on a bipartisan basis, walks away from the Budget Control Act."

Republicans said they opposed the appropriations bill because it exceeded the spending levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Democrats were angered by the Republican move to block the bill, which gained the approval of six Republicans when it was moved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee last month.

"I can't understand why Republican leadership over here would twist arms to derail a bipartisan bill that creates jobs all over America," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.

"Senate Republican leadership threw a tantrum and they said it's my way or the highway. And boy does their highway have a lot of potholes," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the author of the Senate bill.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the decision to block the bill demonstrated the unwillingness of Republicans to negotiate on fiscal issues.

"At times, working with the other side feels like the Middle East peace process. There's no one to negotiate with," Schumer said. "And what we're seeing in both houses [of Congress] is a death dance."

The Senate vote came one day after the House of Representatives pulled its transportation and housing funding bill, leaving the issue unresolved before Congress heads into a month-long recess.

After the bill's derailment Thursday, Senate Democrats and Republicans lunched in a bipartisan meeting over barbeque.