The U.S. Senate rejected five competing budget plans as Republicans attempted to embarrass Democrats for failing to adopt a budget this year.
Taking advantage of an obscure Senate rule, Republicans today forced votes on their budget plans as well as one modeled on President Barack Obama’s tax-and-spending request.
Though each was defeated, the votes were designed to emphasize Republican complaints that Senate Democrats refuse to explain how they’d reduce the government’s $1.2 trillion budget deficit. Republicans say that voters’ anxiety about the deficit will outweigh their concern for domestic programs targeted for cuts.
“Democrats can’t even put a plan on a piece of paper,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “As far as I can tell, their only plan is to take shots at our plans and hope nobody notices that they don’t have one of their own.” The votes, he said, will show the public “who’s got a plan to fix the mess we’re in and who doesn’t.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans were “wasting a day of the Senate’s time on useless, political show votes,” maintaining that last year’s deal to raise the debt limit amounts to a budget.
‘Case of Amnesia’
“Republicans have developed a case of amnesia,” said Reid, of Nevada. “Why else would they walk around Washington claiming we don’t have a budget?”
Republicans took advantage of a Senate rule allowing any lawmaker to require votes on a budget if the chamber’s Budget Committee hasn’t produced a fiscal blueprint by April 1.
The chamber rejected, on a 41-58 procedural vote, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan calling for deep cuts in government spending as well as in taxes. Five Senate Republicans opposed Ryan’s plan, among them Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada, both of whom face competitive election contests.
“We need to end our out-of-control spending” and “to do that, we need to work together, Democrats and Republicans,” Brown said in a statement.
The plan based on Obama’s February budget request was rejected 0-99. “Finding unanimous, bipartisan agreement in Washington is a rare sight, but the president has achieved it,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.
A trio of competing Republican plans, each calling for steeper cuts than Ryan’s budget proposal did, also was rejected. Senator Rand Paul’s proposal to end Medicare, cut Social Security benefits and eliminate four Cabinet departments failed on a 16-83 vote.
Utah Senator Mike Lee’s bid to cut the size of the government in half over the next 25 years fell, 17-82. Senator Patrick Toomey’s plan would have balanced the budget in eight years, far faster than Ryan’s budget that wouldn’t eliminate the shortfall until 2040. It was rejected on a 42-57 vote.
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