House rejects budget from Senate Democrats

The House on Wednesday rejected the Senate Democratic budget in a 154-261 vote, with 35 Democrats voting against the blueprint from their upper chamber colleagues. 

The Senate Democratic budget was one of three budgets cast aside in a series of votes Wednesday after a debate in which Republicans excoriated President Obama for failing to offer his own budget plan in time for the votes.

House Democrats were instructed to vote for the Senate Democratic budget, but 35 of them defected. 

Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) said he voted against the Senate budget because it did not go far enough on entitlements.

"It is not enough entitlement reform in there going forward. It needs to be a more complete and balanced picture and it wasn't bipartisan in the end of the day," Schrader told The Hill.

He said he thinks there is an even chance of a deficit grand bargain this summer, but it will not look anything like the House majority or Senate majority budgets.

"Given the fact that none of these bills are going to pass with any bipartisan votes, it begs the question. The president has teed it up. He has talked about entitlement reform--not the Paul Ryan approach--he's defended some of the tough things in front of the Democrat caucus," Schrader said.

He said there are many centrist Republicans who would do something to increase revenue in exchange for real entitlement reform.

The Senate budget has been criticized by Republicans for doing too little to cut spending. It would turn off the sequester and includes $975 billion in new taxes. It also includes new spending cuts, but it would increase spending when turning off the sequester is included in the calculation.

Democrats in the Senate hope to see their budget approved by the end of the week. It would be the first budget passed by the Senate in four years. 

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The House also rejected the budget from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in a 105-305 vote. That vote split Democrats 105-80, nearly the same as last year when they split 107-75.

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the former head of the CBC, said that he had expected a vote similar to last year.

He said that the budget is a marker for debt-ceiling talks this summer.

“It says that we are committed to reducing our debt and deficit without damage to the poor and working class people in the country. Our budget was designed more than any other budget to reduce pain for the poor.”

The Progressive Caucus budget was also rejected 84-327, but it managed to pick up a few more votes compared to last year. Most Democrats voted against this bill, just as they did last year when it was rejected 78-346.

“I thought it was a good showing. Every time we present it, incrementally, we gain ten votes,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), author of the Progressive Caucus budget.

“I thought we made a good contrast. We are going to keep pushing it and we are going to react to Obama’s budget too,” he said.

“It is also a good marker for a couple of things. We feel our role in this budget fight is to be not only opposition but effective and fierce opposition,” he said.

Grijalva said that his caucus has warned the administration not to cut entitlement benefits and to think twice before offering to do so.

“I’d be very careful in many areas. In the House, to me a lot of people are going to back [the warning] up,” he said.

None of the three alternative budgets garnered a single Republican vote.

All three budgets were expected to fail in the Republican-led House, as all three call for at least $1 trillion in taxes over the next decade, and more spending on things like jobs programs and infrastructure.

Of the three, the Senate budget was least offensive to Republicans. But even that plan would raise taxes by $1 trillion and still add nearly $5 trillion more to the deficit than the House GOP budget from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The CBC and Progressive budgets call for trillions more in taxes and spending compared to the Senate plan.

Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) offered the Senate budget as a way to create a contrast with the Ryan budget, and put members on the record on the Senate plan. Mulvaney said he would have rather submitted President Obama's plan, as he did last year, but said Obama's plan is not expected to be released until April.

"This is the first time in modern history that a president has failed to offer a budget before the United States House of Representatives took up the topic," Mulvaney said.

"It's the very first time since the Budget Act of 1921," he said. "I don't know how we're supposed to discuss the president's vision for the nation, as contained in the budget, when it's not here."

"If the Senate thinks it can send us anything like what it has and that can pass, that is never, ever going to happen," Mulvaney said after the vote. "The vote shows that there are a lot of House Democrats who are also uncomfortable with what Senate Democratic leaders are doing"

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and others reminded their colleagues that the law requires the president to submit a budget.

"That might be amusing to some," Price said after pointing to a blank poster representing Obama's plan. "But… the law states that the president of the United States is required to present a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February."

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) during the budget debate on Wednesday
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) during the
budget debate on Wednesday
Screen Grab/CSPAN.org

"I did see today in the news that the president has released his final four bracket for the NCAA men's basketball bracket, but we've yet to actually see his budget," Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said. "And at some point, we hope to be able to see our national priority be on budgets, not on NCAA brackets in the days ahead."

Democrats were left to defend each budget plan. Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) thanked Mulvaney for introducing the Senate budget, even though he questioned whether it was just a "stunt."

Still, Van Hollen encouraged members to vote for the Senate budget, which calls for repeal of the sequester and would provide $100 billion for infrastructure projects.

"It's a good thing the gentleman brought to the floor to replace the sequester," Van Hollen said. "This plan that the gentleman has brought forward today, apparently under a sort of a mock bipartisanship, will reduce the deficit in a balanced way, calls for shared responsibility, and certainly does not give folks at the very top a tax break financed by middle-income taxpayers like the Republican proposal does."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) defended the CBC budget's call for $2.7 trillion in more taxes by saying the budget outlines trillions in possible taxes that Congress could implement.

"The budget shows that this is a real and achievable goal by highlighting approximately $4.2 trillion in revenue options that the Congress could use to achieve the $2.7 trillion in new revenues," Scott said. Those include limiting the tax deductibility of corporate interest payments, limiting corporate tax breaks, and treating capital gains and dividends like regular income.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who argued in favor of the Progressive budget, pointed to Speaker John Boehner's recent comments that the deficits it not an imminent threat to the country. He said that is a reason to support the Progressive budget, which calls for an aggressive path of trillions of dollars in taxes and new spending to help boost job growth.

"Let me tell you what is immediate, the jobs crisis," Ellison said. "That's why the 'back to work' budget brings down unemployment to 5.3 percent within three years by investing in people — our construction workers, our teachers, our police officers."

--Erik Wasson contributed to this report.


--This report was updated at 8:48 p.m.