Senate sets up six hours of debate, votes on GOP budget resolutions Wednesday

The Senate on Wednesday will hold six hours of debate and votes on four different Republican budget resolutions, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate that they will not be supported in the Democratic-led Senate.

A fifth budget measure up for a vote, from Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is based on President Obama's budget and is seen as an attempt to embarrass the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT
But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Tuesday that debate and votes on the GOP proposals would show there is little appetite for these plans. He also said it would give the country a chance to understand that last year's Budget Control Act already sets spending caps for Congress. Democrats have been under fire for failing to pass any budget resolution.

"We are going to see, from some of my colleagues on the other side, truly extreme plans, and I hope they will be voted down tomorrow," Conrad said on the Senate floor. "Tomorrow will be an interesting day to discuss different members' views of the fiscal future of this country."

"We will then have a chance to debate tomorrow longer-term plans, and I'll be interested to see what some of our colleagues say about some of the truly extraordinary and extreme budget plans that are being offered by my colleagues on the other side."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed the GOP plans as gimmicks.

"These are not issues that are serious in nature, they are all just for show," he said. "All these ridiculous budgets they have are non-binding. The president doesn’t have to sign them."

"They are really, really absurd," he said. Reid claimed that one plan makes $7 trillion in accounting errors.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that "the Senate has not passed a budget as required by law. Fortunately we will be having budget votes tomorrow on a number of different Republican alternatives. We believe that the law ought to be followed."

McConnell pointed out that procedurally the budget votes are allowed under the 1974 Budget act which allows any member to bring up a budget if the Budget Committee fails to report one. He said this is confirmation that Reid's argument that the top-line spending number in the August debt ceiling deal does not constitute a full "budget."

"I know that our friends on the other side of the aisle said that because of the Budget Control Act we already have a budget, but the parliamentarian does not view that as the case or we wouldn’t be allowed to have these votes that will occur tomorrow," he said.

One of the four GOP budget resolutions to be debated Wednesday is H.Con.Res. 112, the budget resolution approved by the House in March.

Also up is S.Con.Res. 37 from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.); S.Con.Res. 42 from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and S.Con.Res. 44 from Paul and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). The Sessions resolution based on Obama's budget is S.Con.Res. 41.

Sessions said Tuesday that Democrats were showing a lack of leadership on the budget by failing to produce their own resolution.

"The party running the Senate has neither written nor offered a budget plan for our nation's financial future, preferring instead to call for higher taxes to fund endless government growth and waste," he said. "The budget votes expected this week will once again bring into crystal focus that the party running the Senate is refusing to meet its financial obligations and responsibly plan for the economic future of the United States."

Under an agreement read by Conrad, the resolutions will be debated concurrently for six hours, which will be followed by individual votes on motions to proceed to these resolutions. But none of them will be considered if the motions to proceed fail.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), one of many Republicans who has criticized the Senate for failing to pass any budget resolution for the last three years, asked to amend the orders of the day by also voting on his bill, S. 1981. That bill would block pay for members if Congress fails to pass a budget resolution.

But Conrad objected to that request.

— Erik Wasson contributed.

— This post was last updated at 3:30 p.m.