Here comes the sequester: Democratic, Republican bills to avert cuts defeated in Senate

Actually, the GOP bill wasn’t designed to avert cuts, it was designed to avert these cuts by giving Obama the power to replace them with equivalent cuts of his choosing. He’s been screaming for weeks that the sequester will chop crucial services by hitting agencies indiscriminately across the board, right? Well, there’s the solution — let O protect the important stuff, like naval deployments, by reinstating the Pentagon’s money and cutting stuff like cowboy poetry festivals instead. Result: The bill fails, 38-60. So terrified was the White House of the political responsibility of deciding which arms of government should bear the burden of an $85 billion haircut that they actually threatened to veto the bill if it passed. No need to worry about that; Senate Democrats, who’ve been shirking political responsibility for years by not passing a budget, were happy to kill this thing for him. Imagine how awkward it would have been if they hadn’t and O had to explain to the public that he had the power to save money in ways besides, say, releasing illegal immigrants from detention centers but chose not to exercise it. His whole strategy in this process is to impose maximum pain on Americans while blaming Republicans for supposedly tying his hands in trying to avert it. They offered to untie his hands. He refused. Leadership.

The Democrats’ alternative to $85 billion in cuts, meanwhile, was … very Democratic:

The sequester replacement bill proposed by Senate Democrats, and endorsed by the White House, would add $7.2 billion to the federal deficit over ten years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“CBO estimates that S. 388 would increase direct spending by $62.4 billion and revenues by $55.1 billion over the 2013–2023 period. Thus, the cumulative deficit would increase by $7.2 billion from those changes,” CBO wrote in a report.

The Democratic bill would replace the $85 billion in automatic cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday with a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts to defense programs and farm subsidies. However, those spending cuts would be phased in over a ten-year period, whereas the sequestration cuts would occur this year.

That one failed 51-49. Interestingly, both bills drew opposition from their own sides. The Republican plan got flack from McCain on grounds that it’s nutty to hand Obama a blank check on cuts when he’s bound to use it to punish interests favored by the GOP. The Democratic plan received a few no votes from, I assume, red-state Dems like Pryor and Begich who are facing reelection next year and don’t want the locals to know their big plan to replace the sequester was with another $7 billion in borrowing. I’m waiting for the roll call on each and will post as soon as they’re available. Stand by for updates. While you wait, read Byron York’s piece at the Examiner questioning Obama’s claim that his hands really are tied. Some federal agencies, most notably Defense, already have the power to move money around on their books to protect their most important functions. Why isn’t O asking them to exercise it?

Update: Still no rolls available as of 4:20 ET but CNN has a list of senators on both sides who bucked the party line. No surprises:

Nine Republicans voted against McConnell’s proposal: New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Maine’s Susan Collins, Texas’s Ted Cruz, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Nevada’s Dean Heller, Utah’s Mike Lee, Arizona’s John McCain, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio.

Three Democrats opposed Reid’s plan: North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor.

Reid himself also voted against the Democratic bill, but purely for procedural reasons.

The McCain/Graham/Ayotte faction of hawks likely opposed the GOP bill for fear of what Obama might use it to do to the Pentagon. The Paul/Lee faction, I assume, simply opposes congressional delegation of appropriations power to the executive on principle. As for the Democratic heretics, yep, all three are red-staters and all three are up next year.