After days of speculation on where Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stood, the GOP leader says he will vote against the two-year budget agreement forged by Democrats and Republicans.
The Ryan-Murray plan seeks to relieve around $63 billion of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration while continuing to slash the nation's deficit by a projected $23 billion over the next decade.
It passed the House by an overwhelming majority and was supported by the majority of Kentucky's congressional delegation last week despite misgivings from both parties.
Though the compromise avoids a government shutdown it lacks a "grand bargain" that many had hoped Congress could achieve.
Senators voted 67-33 on Tuesday to end debate on the spending plan and will hold a final vote on the proposal tomorrow, but McConnell says lawmakers should keep sequestration level cuts in order to curb government spending.
"While I appreciate the challenges that House and Senate negotiators faced in crafting the budgetary guidelines, I cannot support the legislation they have agreed to," McConnell said in a statement. "The Budget Control Act was designed to cut spending in the short and long term, and I remain convinced that Congress should continue to adhere to the fiscal restraints it set. For the first time since the Korean War, government spending has declined for two years in a row as a result of the BCA. This was hard-won progress on the road to getting our nation’s fiscal house in order. We should not go back on that commitment."
McConnell joins fellow Kentucky Republicans Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie, who have criticized the Ryan-Murray deal for increasing spending levels.
For many observers, McConnell's decision to oppose the compromise reflects a two-fold thinking.
The sequestration cuts have been described as McConnell's "baby" by conservative commentators and one he couldn't walk out on despite cover from House Republicans. Also, the GOP leader is facing a tight re-election bid next year including a primary opponent who continues to question McConnell's conservative credentials.
A dozen GOP senators from McConnell's caucus joined Democrats to move the bill forward. It is expected to pass the Senate despite criticism from liberal groups and others that it fails to extend unemployment benefits beyond Dec. 28.
"I will be supporting the bipartisan budget proposal because it is a middle-of-the-road approach that provides certainty for the next two years," says Democratic Senator Joe Donnell of Indiana. "No one got 100 percent of what they wanted, but this proposal makes additional cuts to the deficit and prevents another government shutdown. This is an example of how the parties can work together, and we need more bipartisan efforts like this instead of the partisan gridlock that hurt our economy this year."
President Obama has said he will sign the bill.