From Carrie Dann and Libby Leist
Senate Democrats forced a vote Wednesday on the controversial fiscal plan drafted by House Budget chief Paul Ryan, splitting the Republican caucus and forcing several vulnerable GOP senators who are up for re-election to go on the record supporting or opposing sweeping changes to the nation’s Medicare system.
The vote on the measure – which failed as expected -- came on the heels of a decisive Democratic victory Tuesday night in a New York special election that focused heavily on the proposed Medicare changes.
Moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine were joined by Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in breaking with Republican leaders to oppose the Ryan plan.
Snowe and Brown are up for re-election in 2012.
Tea Party-backed Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also voted against the budget, saying its proposed spending cuts are not deep enough.
All Senate Democrats voted no.
The final tally was 40-57. Fifty-one yeas would have been necessary to move the plan forward.
Only four Republicans voted against the Ryan plan when it was passed by the GOP-led House in April. All House Democrats opposed the proposal.
The Senate also voted on three alternative measures, including one to take up President Barack Obama's budget.
No senators voted for the Obama budget; it failed 0 to 97.
Democrats argue that the budget proposed by Obama in February of this year has already been superceded by new plans from the White House and is therefore outdated, but Republicans were quick to highlight that the only Democratic budget to be addressed Wednesday night received not one vote of support.