The Hill: Rival sequester bills teed up in Senate

By Alexander Bolton – 02/26/13 05:00 AM ET

Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate are teeing up rival bills aimed at shielding their members from blame when an $85 billion cut to federal spending takes effect on Friday.

The Senate will vote this week on two proposals to stop the cuts, known in Washington as the sequester, but neither version is expected to pass, according to Senate aides.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recognize their bills are dead on arrival, but are forging ahead in an effort to secure public support in the messaging war over sequestration.

The dueling votes could take place as soon as Wednesday, but a senior Democratic aide said Thursday is the more likely date. Each proposal must garner 60 votes to pass, and there is no Plan B.

The Republican plan would maintain the level of spending reductions but give President Obama more flexibility to minimize their impact on military preparedness and other vital government services, such as air traffic control and airport security screening.

The Democratic package, meanwhile, would freeze the sequester through the end of the calendar year and offset the $110 billion cost with an even mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Both bills will be used as ammunition in the political firefight over the sequester, which has intensified in the run-up to Friday’s deadline.

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