Senate to Hold Dueling Pointless Budget Votes

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that he will force a vote in the Senate on President Obama’s FY 2012 budget. “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,” McConnell said in a statement. It’s just one cynical move in response to another.

McConnell’s statement comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would hold a vote on House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget. “There will be an opportunity in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget to see if Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as the House did,” Reid said on a conference call yesterday with reporters. “We will see how much the Republicans like it here in the Senate.”

House Republicans have had a rough week of town halls as they defend their vote for the Ryan budget, which makes substantial changes to Medicare and Medicaid in an attempt to rein in entitlement spending. By forcing Senate Republicans to vote on the budget, Reid is hoping to box vulnerable Republican senators into the same corner at their House colleagues.

Meanwhile, Republicans have blasted Obama’s 2012 budget as unserious for not addressing issues like entitlement spending. McConnell is trying to force vulnerable Dems to vote for a plan that the GOP considers a political weapon given the public’s hankering for spending controls. It doesn’t have the politically poisonous potential of the Ryan budget, but it will give the GOP more fodder for their arguments that Democrats are all about status quo big government.

There are a number of things to understand about these votes. First off, budgets mean relatively little: they are non-binding resolutions. The only real impact budgets have is in reconciliation – a parliamentary process done at the end of the year – and neither of these bills have a ghost of a hope of ending in reconciliation. Secondly, neither will even pass in the first place. These are purely political votes that are pretty much a waste of time and the taxpayer dollars that pay senators. The only thing they are intended to impact are voting levers next November.

Finally, there is something a little twisted about both sides using their own budgets against one another. It takes cynical to a whole new level. Bipartisanship will be required for the upcoming debt ceiling vote, and the hyperpartisan tone these votes strike doesn’t bode well.