Senate Defies Trump by Refusing to Cut $15 Billion in Spending

June 20, 2018, 7:37 PM UTC

The Senate defied President Donald Trump by refusing to cancel $15 billion in unspent funds from prior years using a procedure that required a simple majority of 50 votes to pass.

The 48 to 50 vote on Wednesday was an embarrassment to the White House, which unveiled the spending cut request with much fanfare in May after crafting the package with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

The vote comes even as Republicans generally have been reluctant to defy Trump with November congressional elections looming. Democrats have reason to be optimistic about gaining control of the House while the party will have a harder time reversing the 51-49 Republican majority in the Senate.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and and Richard Burr of North Carolina joined Democrats in voting against the measure, which passed the House earlier this month.

Collins had said she was not comfortable with supporting cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Burr opposed a $16 million cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to a Senate Republican aide.

“It is disappointing that the Senate chose to reject this common-sense plan, and the American people should be asking their representatives in Washington one simple question: If they cannot pass good-government legislation to recapture unnecessary funds, how can we ever expect them to address Washington’s staggering debt and deficit problem?” said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a statement.

Trump sought to cancel spending after the GOP came under fire from conservatives for signing a $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 spending bill. Using an obscure provision in the 1974 Budget Act, the president can freeze spending for 45 days while Congress debates a request to cancel appropriated spending. A bill making the cuts cannot be filibustered in the Senate, unlike regular spending bills.

The White House initially sought to cancel some spending from that bill. Republican lawmakers said that doing so would violate bipartisan deals they had struck with Democrats. The White House settled on seeking to cut funds from prior years.