WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate leaders have scheduled two votes on Democratic- and Republican-crafted bills that would delay pending defense spending cuts or give the president greater flexibility in enacting them.
But the Senate also announced both bills will be subject to a 60-vote threshold to end debate. Because it is doubtful either bill has ample support to reach that vote amount, both are expected to be quickly defeated, meaning Thursday’s Senate floor action will be largely symbolic.
The Democratic measure, unveiled Feb. 14, covers only the remainder of fiscal 2013, and calls for $55 billion in spending cuts and $54 billion in new tax revenue. It reflects the kind of “balanced approach” long called for by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.
A GOP aide told reporters at that time that the Democrats’ bill would fail to attract enough members of that caucus to reach the 60-vote threshold, adding it could get virtually no Republican support.
The legislation calls for the cuts to be split between national defense accounts and non-defense accounts. It would slash Pentagon spending by $27.5 billion in fiscal 2013, with an identical amount coming by terminating some agriculture subsidies. All of the defense cuts would occur in the outyears of the current defense spending plan, with no cuts occurring during the current fiscal year.
The Republicans’ bill, crafted by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey would grant the Pentagon and White House the ability to determine just what gets cut — and how deeply. Under the sequestration process, which would kick in March 27, all non-exempt accounts would be trimmed by around 9 percent.
Even several GOP senators who support their party’s legislation predicted Tuesday it would be voted down.
The first vote will begin around 2 p.m. The House has no sequestration legislation on its Thursday schedule, meaning the twin $500 billion cuts to planned defense and domestic spending almost inevitably will be triggered Friday, setting in motion a 26-day period during which Congress and the White House could agree on another delay or a permanent fix.