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Senate GOP blocks sequester compromise plan, seals fate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led the charge to filibuster the Democratic sequester compromise.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led the charge to filibuster the Democratic sequester compromise.Getty Images

Following up on an earlier item, the Senate scheduled two votes today on addressing automatic sequestration cuts set to begin tomorrow. Both failed this afternoon, though one of those votes was more important than the other.

First up was the Republican alternative, which gave the GOP exactly what it wanted -- 100% cuts, 0% revenue -- but would force President Obama to decide where to make over $85 billion in cuts this year. The plan failed miserably, drawing just 38 votes. Voting against were all the Senate Democrats as well as Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, John McCain, Rand Paul, Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins.

Next came the Democratic compromise plan, which would replace the sequester with a combination of spending cuts and new revenue from closed tax loopholes. Unlike the GOP approach, a majority of the Senate supports the compromise, but like the GOP plan, this attempt was shot down, too.

Senate Republicans have filibustered a Democratic bill that would pay down sequestration's indiscriminate spending cuts for a year. [...]

The final vote was 51-49. It needed 60 votes to pass. Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted with a unified GOP conference to block the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also switched his vote from yes to no -- a procedural maneuver that preserves his right to call the measure up for a vote again quickly in the future.

The result was rather anticlimactic -- the question wasn't whether the plan would pass, but rather, how badly it would fail -- but nevertheless informative in some important ways.

Why? Because we now know with certainty that there will be no resolution of the self-inflicted sequestration wounds before tomorrow's deadline.

Also, I'd encourage folks to keep a rhetorical angle to this in mind. It's safe to assume that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his allies will soon argue, if they haven't already, that Republicans shouldn't be blamed because neither chamber passed an alternative plan, even after Boehner demanded the Senate do all the work(as if the House Speaker can credibly give orders to the Senate).

But that argument will be misleading, to put it mildly. Senate Democrats came up with a credible compromise, brought it to the floor, held a vote, and found that a majority of the chamber supports the Democratic alternative. House Republicans, meanwhile, refused to craft a compromise, chose not to bring a bill to the floor, didn't hold a vote, and were afraid to find out whether a GOP alternative could get majority support.

The bottom line hasn't changed all month: one side is open to negotiation and compromise; one side isn't. When blame-both-sides-for-everything pundits consider who bears responsibility for failure, it seems no other detail has any relevance at all.