The effort by Senate Democrats to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government came crashing down Thursday night when Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said he learned he wouldn't get support from a number of Republicans who had earlier indicated they might back the bill.
Reid, from Nevada, said nine Republican senators told him they would support the bill but "walked away" from the legislation. He didn't identify them but said: "They know who they are."
The failure to hold on to the Republicans means Reid won't have the votes to get past Republican opposition.
Reid said he would work with the Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to compose a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded for a few months. The federal government has been operating under continuing resolutions since Oct. 1 when fiscal 2011 started.
The 1,924-page spending bill was criticized by Republicans as containing too much spending and too many earmarks — or as Reid called them, congressionally directed spending.
Senate Republicans have sworn off earmarks because of the hostility from conservatives, including those in the Tea Party movement, to lawmakers requesting such funding for individual projects.
Republicans took the midterm elections as the latest and strongest in a series of signals that such earmarks were anathema to many of their voters.
Republicans also decided it would be better for them to wait until January when the House will come under Republican control and their party would also increase their numbers in the Senate.
That would give them more leverage to force spending cuts they didn't have the power to make in the current Congress.
With the spending bill shelved, Reid said he planned to next bring up for Senate consideration the DREAM Act, legislation that would put on a citizenship path young illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions, including college attendance or military service.
After that, he plans to bring up repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.