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Congress: Budget battle

NBC’s Ken Strickland reports: The Senate is expected to vote today two competing versions of bills that fund the government for the rest of this year. The exact timing of the votes hasn't been set, but will likely be mid-afternoon according to Democratic and Republican aides. Neither bill is expected to get the 60 votes required to advance, but will set the stage for addition negotiations. The Republican bill is the one already passed by the House, cutting spending by roughly $61 billion from current levels. The Senate Democrats' version cuts spending by about $6 billion.

The Hill: "After losing round one of the budget battle last week, Democrats are hoping that the votes will represent a turning point in the budget talks. The competing bills have little chance of attracting the necessary 60 votes for passage, but Democrats are hopeful they’ll get more yes votes than the GOP. If that happens, Democrats argue, Republicans need to come closer to their budget-cutting number."

But Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) doesn't like the idea and he's going to criticize President Obama for lacking leadership on the budget negotiations. He'll deliver today a tough floor speech criticizing both parties and the idea of holding the votes at all.

"Why are we engaging in this political theater?" Manchin is expected to say, according to prepared remarks. "Why are we voting on partisan proposals that we know will fail, that we all know don’t balance our nation’s priorities with the need to get our fiscal house in order? Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations - our President - has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for? … The truth of the matter is that this debate, as important as it is, will not be decided by House Republicans and Senate Democrats negotiating with each other -- or past each other. This debate will be decided when the President leads these tough negotiations. And, right now -- that is not happening."