Obama & Ryan Budgets Fail in the Senate

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I tend to be ethically opposed to writing about political votes — votes that either chamber undertakes simply to get members on the record. These votes have little to do with actually making laws and everything to do with millions of dollars in broadcast commercials. I can just hear the baritone narrator’s voice now: “Dean Heller voted to dismantle health care as you know it!” And, “Not a single Democrat voted for Barack Obama’s 2012 budget and this is the man you want as your fiscal steward?”

Giving ink to these cynically political endeavors feels like furthering what’s wrong with Washington. But, I suppose I must mark the occasion. So, here we go:  The Senate voted on the President’s and Paul Ryan’s budget resolutions on Wednesday. Both failed.

Ryan’s budget failed 57-40. As a privileged resolution it only needed 51 to pass. A couple of vulnerable Republicans voted against the measure, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Maine’s Olympia Snowe in particular. Other notable Rs voting nay: Maine’s Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Kentucky’s Rand Paul amazingly opposed it from the right. Two other Republicans worried about primary challenges, Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar of Indiana, voted for the budget. The Ryan budget would end Medicare as we know it, transforming it into a semi-privatized voucher system. Voters, as last night’s results in the special election to fill the shirtless Chris Lee’s seat in upstate New York demonstrated, seem less than impressed with such an idea.

Even less popular, at least in the Senate, was Obama’s 2012 budget, which went down 0-97 (Senators Chuck Schumer of New york, Texas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison and Pat Roberts of Kansas were absent). Obama punted on entitlement reform when he introduced this budget in February and Republicans have criticized the President for failing to combat the deficit crisis. Last month, Obama gave a speech calling for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over then next 12 years, but his budget was not updated to reflect the new numbers. Democrats were loath to vote for a resolution that doesn’t address the topic du jour: debt.

So, with these votes done, we now get to look forward to next week’s cosmetic vote in the House. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is expected to bring a clean debt ceiling bill to the floor. Its expected failure is meant to underline to Democrats that significant cuts must accompany an increase in the debt ceiling in order to win Republican votes. Ah, Congress.