When Congress returns from the Easter recess, Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) wants to have a purely political vote in the Senate to force Republicans to go on record either in support of or in opposition to the House GOP budget adopted on April 15:
As Congress hurtles toward its late spring deadline to raise the nation’s debt limit, Reid says he wants to force GOP senators to take a stand on the Ryan plan, which would overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, and cut trillions over the next decade.
“[We’ll] see if Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as their House colleagues did,” Reid told reporters on a conference call. “All but two Republicans in the House voted for this. As with H.R. 1, let’s bring it over here and see how people feel about it,” he added, referring to a separate House-approved long-term spending plan that failed in the Senate.
Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) has already signaled her opposition to the Ryan budget, and moderate members like Sens. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) and Scott Brown (R., Mass.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2012 (as is Collins), will be unlikely to support the plan as well. Others to watch include Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), Dick Lugar (R., Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa). Reid’s goal is to prove that the Ryan budget is “extreme” and lacks even the full support of the GOP.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is pushing back by calling for a vote on President Obama’s 2012 budget — his actual budget, not the “plan” outlined in his speech at George Washington University:
McConnell plans to mimic whatever legislative maneuver Reid uses to bring the Ryan budget to the floor. For example, if the majority leader offers the GOP plan via an amendment to another piece of legislation, the minority leader will do the same with Obama’s budget. If Ryan’s budget is offered as a “Sense of the Senate,” the same pattern will transpire with the White House plan.
“I understand that the Majority Leader would like to have a vote on the House-passed Ryan budget and we will,” McConnell said, in a prepared statement. “But we’ll have a vote on the President’s budget at the same time. Since there is no Democrat budget in the Senate, we’ll give our colleagues an opportunity to stand with the President in failing to address the problems facing our nation while calling for trillions in new spending, massive new debt and higher taxes on American energy, families and small businesses across the country.”
A vote on Obama’s budget, which includes massive tax increases, does nothing to rein in entitlement costs and adds trillions to the deficit, could put Senate Democrats in an uncomfortable position as well. The president’s plan could prove too unserious for the likes of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), conservatives Democrats up for reelection in 2012, but also too “draconian” for the likes of some liberal Democrats. The vote will be a way for Republicans to set up a contrast between the two party’s positions in terms of which is more serious about tackling the deficit.
Either way, neither plan will get the 60 votes needed for passage. This is pure political theater.
Just to summarize: Harry Reid wants to have a ‘show vote’ on a Republican budget that has already been through the mark-up process and adopted by a majority of the House. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, under the “leadership” of Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), have yet to introduce and mark up, much less vote on, a budget of their own. It would appear the two parties don’t exactly share the same priorities.
UPDATE: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, weighs in.
“Senator Reid has made a serious miscalculation if he believes bringing the House Republican Budget to the Senate will disadvantage Senate Republicans,” Sessions said in a statement. “Instead, he will only draw more attention to the fact that House Republicans have presented an honest, principled budget while the Democrat-led Senate has failed to pass a budget in more than 700 days.”
Senate Democrats have not even presented a resolution in the Budget Committee this year or shown any intent to do so. The only Democrat budget we can examine in the Senate is the president’s budget, which the Congressional Budget Office says doubles our nation’s entire gross debt and then lays that terrible burden upon our children. Erskin Bowles, the co-chair of the president’s own fiscal commission, said the president’s budget goes ‘nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.’ In light of our current challenges the president’s budget is the most irresponsible spending plan any president has put forward in our history.”
By contrast, the House GOP budget spends $6.2 trillion less than the president’s, taxes $2 trillion less, and makes the necessary choices today to spare our children from painful choices tomorrow. It is the most serious attempt I have seen in my career to address our long-term fiscal problems.
Given their heated rhetoric opposing spending discipline, I assume Senate Democrat leaders will happily call the president’s budget to a vote to demonstrate their support for a plan that dramatically grows our deficits and our taxes—making us less prosperous and less competitive as a result. Even the president had to back away from his own budget with a speech that alleged $4 trillion in savings but in reality doesn’t come close to that figure. His speech repeated the same gimmicks from his existing budget while offering no new reforms and no real plan to control our deficit spending. In fact, the White House has so far refused to even put their ‘framework’ on paper. This is not the honest budgeting the American people deserve.
Nonetheless, I continue to wait and hope the president and Democrat leaders will reverse course and present an honest budget. We can’t create jobs through taxes, build prosperity through debt, or win the future with borrowed money.