Republicans Threaten Senate Blockade if Reid Doesn't Deal With Debt, Spending

Ten Republican senators are warning Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that they will block any bills that do not address fiscal issues until the current impasse on spending is resolved.

"While there are many issues that warrant the Senate's consideration, we feel that the Senate must not debate and consider bills at this time that do not affirmatively cut spending," reads a letter signed by the group of 10. "We, therefore, are notifying you of our intention to object to the consideration of any legislation that fails to directly address this crisis in a meaningful way."

The letter was signed by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Ensign of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Senate rules give individual members the power to block legislation indefinitely to force debate. The letter says that the members will blockade any unrelated bill that comes forward unless Reid dedicates "significant floor time" to the debate over debt and spending.

Reid's office said, "After ignoring jobs for months, Republicans are making it official by vowing to block every bill that creates American jobs."

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell's office said such moves should surprise no one and the "debt ought not to get worse."

The move comes as two deadlines are bearing down on Congress.

First, the current stopgap spending plan that's funding the government will expire on March 18. Second, the federal government is fast approaching the $14.2 trillion limit on borrowing set last year.

Senate Democrats are currently hammering out a new plan on spending after a proposal for modest cuts put forward by Reid and the Obama White House was shot down with the help of 11 members of the Democratic caucus.

Republicans, though, are concerned that Reid will try to run out the clock to heighten the risk of a government shutdown and leave little time for Republicans to make a counterproposal. The 10 Senators aim to deny Reid that option.

House Republicans tell Fox News that they plan to unveil a two- to four-week spending proposal on Friday, with a vote on Tuesday. The short-term spending proposal to cut an additional $2 billion per week from current spending levels -- a pace on track with the Republican goal of lowering spending by $57 billion for the final 28 weeks of the fiscal year.

Republican appropriators tell Fox News that they favor a package of $6 billion in cuts over three weeks.

Members of both parties in both chambers are increasingly impatient with short term stop-gap measures. Many are particularly concerned about the negative impact on the Pentagon, as described at length in various committee testimony by Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Fox News has also learned that a handful of conservative Republicans are considering an overture to Democrats that would open for negotiation swapping some of the GOP's proposed cuts for ones preferred by Democrats, provided they are of equivalent savings.

This offer is under discussion among rank and file Republicans and has not yet been made or even endorsed by leadership.

Following the defeat of the White House-backed spending plan on Wednesday, Reid, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., signaled a willingness to compromise on additional cuts not from discretionary spending but rather from entitlements, which make up the biggest share of the national debt, including Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats, though, have expressed little interest in tackling more than $7 billion in unfunded Social Security liabilities.