Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday that he will hold votes on Tuesday afternoon on a House-passed measure to fund the government for the rest of the year and an alternative Democratic bill that tracks a White House proposal to cut current spending by about $6.5 billion.
Democrats expect both proposals to fail, but they hope that the votes push Republicans toward compromise in White House-led talks aimed at a deal on a long-term continuing resolution. The votes represent the latest Democratic bid to prod GOP lawmakers -- who thus far have held the upper hand in the spending fight--to give.
With Republicans arguing that the Senate should consider the House-passed CR that cuts current spending by about $61 billion, Democrats hope a sound Senate defeat of the measure will increase GOP willingness to meet them halfway.
"Everyone knows it's not gonna pass," Reid said in a long floor speech Friday. "It's a very, very difficult, bad piece of legislation." He said that the seven-month CR, "will go down in history as one of the worst pieces of legislation to be drafted in the history of this Congress."
"People will run from that, run from that." Reid said.
Reid moved to set up the votes after Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, released the Democratic bill on Friday.
Democrats suggested that their alterative will draw more support than the House-passed CR.
"We hope to show we have Democratic support and maybe some Republican support," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday on C-SPAN.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have already rejected the White House proposal as insufficient. "Unfortunately, it is little more than the status quo, and the status quo is indefensible and unacceptable," Boehner said Friday.
Democrats described the bill as coming in $51 billion below President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget proposal. That represents about a $6.5 billion cut from current spending, leaving a gap of more than $50 billion between the Republican and Democratic proposals.
Republicans in recent days have repeatedly called for Democrats to offer an alternative before the GOP negotiates. Democrats feel that the Inouye bill addresses that demand.
McConnell on Friday declined a unanimous-consent request by Reid to set votes on both alternatives, but he said he might agree on Monday after reviewing the Inouye bill over the weekend. Reid said he would hold the votes through an agreement or by using his procedural ability to force them.
Reid said the test votes were agreed to in a Thursday afternoon meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders -- the first in what Democrats say will be a series of Biden-led meetings aimed at reaching a deal.
Those meeting were announced after Senate passage of a stopgap CR drafted by House GOP leaders that cuts spending by $4 billion over two weeks. Another short CR is likely to be needed before the March 18 expiration of that measure.
Humberto Sanchez and Billy House contributed to this report.