Conceding defeat this time, Senate Dems pledge to win next round

by
March 2, 2011

By Alexander Bolton -The Hill

Senate Democrats conceded Tuesday that House Republicans won round one of the budget fight, but they are vowing a bigger battle later this month.

Anticipating that showdown, Senate Democratic leaders are scrambling to unify their caucus as their colleagues express starkly different opinions on the best strategy to pursue.

Centrists who are facing tough reelections in Republican-leaning states want to support additional spending cuts for the rest of the fiscal year. Some are more willing to accept reductions to social programs than to defense and agriculture programs.

Disappointed and boxed-in Democratic senators suggested Tuesday they would win — next time.

“The real battle is to come with the next, the long-term [spending resolution], the next time. That’s going to be the battleground,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee with jurisdiction over education, labor and health programs.

A Democratic senator who attended a Tuesday conference lunch said colleagues “vented” over cuts in the House bill.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) bashed Republican calls to cut the women, infants, children (WIC) health and nutrition program, according to a Democratic source familiar with the closed-door discussion. She distributed fliers to other Democratic senators that listed arguments against the GOP proposal. The WIC cuts are not in the stopgap measure approved by the House on Tuesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) spoke out against cuts to Planned Parenthood and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued against cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers that she said would stall crucial water projects in California and around the country, according to a Democratic source.

But not all Democrats were that upset with the House’s actions.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who will likely face a tough reelection race in 2012, said she “does not have a problem” with the House GOP’s spending bill.

Given the views of McCaskill and other centrists, liberals worry that Democratic leaders will roll over and accept another deal on Republican terms in an attempt to bolster the reelection chances of vulnerable incumbents in red states.

They fear a reprise of last December when Obama and Republican leaders agreed to a tax-cut deal that was widely panned by the left.

To read more, visit: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/146915-senate-democrats-acknowledge-defeat-but-say-theyre-going-to-win-next-round

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