Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday pledged that the upper chamber would hold a vote on President Obama's budget proposal in an effort to divide Democrats.
The move came in response to Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) announcement Wednesday that the Senate would hold a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget in order to expose a potential rift in the GOP conference. McConnell agreed to that plan and said that the vote on the Obama budget would happen "at the same time."
Should the vote occur, it could put Democrats facing tough reelection races on the spot.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that Obama's plan would produce 10 years of deficits totaling $9.5 trillion and would increase public debt to 87 percent of gross domestic product by 2021.
The White House billed the plan as a starting point in the broader debate over how to bring down the nation's deficit and debt, and Obama announced a deficit-reduction goal of $4 trillion over 12 years in a speech this month.
With his announcement Thursday, McConnell appears to be turning to a familiar tactic to turn the tables on Reid.
In March, the Senate voted on GOP and Democratic proposals to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year and avoid a shutdown. Both plans failed, but the GOP plan gained more votes even though the upper chamber is controlled by Democrats, a fact McConnell touted as evidence that the Democrats lacked leverage.
As of now, it is unclear how Obama's budget would be brought up, since Reid — not McConnell — controls the floor.
But a Republican aide said that depending on how Reid brings up the Ryan budget procedurally, the GOP could use one of several tools to bring it to a vote.
"There are myriad ways to do it," the aide said.
Reid has not yet scheduled a vote on the Ryan budget. The Senate is currently in recess and will return on Monday.
Before McConnell's move was announced publicly, Reid spokesman Jon Summers accused Republicans of being afraid of revealing divisions within their own caucus.
"After Senate Republican leaders spent weeks embracing House Republicans’ plan to end Medicare to give tax breaks to millionaires, why are they suddenly afraid to vote on it?" he asked. "They've already praised this plan to end Medicare as we know it, so they shouldn't be afraid to put it in the record."
But McConnell said Senate Democrats are the ones who have been afraid to release a 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," he said.
McConnell also downplayed potential divisions within the Republican Caucus over the Ryan budget.
"House Budget Chairman Ryan presented, and the House passed, a budget to address our most pressing problems head-on at a moment when the President and other Democrat leaders simply refuse to do so themselves," he said. "It’s my hope that our friends on the other side recognize this effort for what it is — a serious, good-faith effort to do something good and necessary for the future of our nation and that, for the good of the nation, they’ll join in the effort at some point before it’s too late."