Voting on budget will provide 2012 ammo

Voting on budget will provide 2012 ammo

Senate Republicans and Democrats alike are poised to use budget votes as election-year ammunition.

Republican senators are expected to force a vote this week on President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget plan, while Democrats are relishing a roll call on Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanOPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 The one part of ObamaCare that must be repealed now Senate Dems warn they will block recess appointments MORE’s (R-Wis.) budget blueprint. 

The GOP initiative is intended to embarrass the White House by painting the president’s budget as so weak on fiscal issues that his own party cannot support it, and to highlight the inability of the Senate Democratic majority to produce a budget. It has been more than 1,100 days since the Senate cleared a budget resolution. 

GOP aides say that if Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (D-Nev.) tried to rally support for Obama’s budget, he could get a dozen yes votes at best. 

That estimate may be low, though there is a clear contrast in how congressional Democrats dealt with Obama’s budget in 2009 and this year. Three years ago, the Democratic-led Senate passed Obama’s budget 55-43. Obama’s approval ratings were much higher at the time, which fostered strong Democratic unity on Capitol Hill.

Some centrist Democrats, including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), have said they prefer a budget with deeper deficit cuts than Obama presented. Vulnerable Democratic senators are seen as unwilling to vote for the tax increases detailed in the White House budget. 

Aides to several Democratic centrists were noncommittal Monday on how their bosses would vote if the Obama budget comes up. 

Democrats have previously used an exit ramp from the GOP trap, concluding that their best move is to dismiss the vote as a gimmick, and to vote no en masse. 

Last May, Obama’s budget was voted down, 0-97. Democrats noted they could vote no after Obama delivered an April speech calling for deeper deficit reduction than he had presented two months earlier in his budget.

This year, Obama is sticking by his budget, so Democrats are embracing another reason to vote it down.

The White House moved Monday to free Democrats to vote no by saying the legislation embodying Obama’s budget is “different” because it doesn’t contain identical policy language. 

That measure was introduced by Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSenate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions Sessions planning to announce leak investigations: report Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal MORE (R-Ala.).

In March, the Republican-led House rejected a similar attempt by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), 0-414.

“As with the Mulvaney resolution in the House, the resolution introduced by Sen. Sessions is not the president’s budget,” White House budget office spokesman Kenneth Baer said in an email. “This is just a gimmick the Republicans are putting forward to distract from what the Ryan-Republican budget does: protects massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while making the middle class and seniors pay.” 

Last year’s Ryan budget was voted down in the Senate, 40-57. The vote put Senate GOP leaders in an awkward position; polls showed the budget popular with the conservative base, but not with independents. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions Trump predicts 'problems' for those voting against ObamaCare repeal Overnight Defense: House passes Russia sanctions deal | McCain returns to Senate | Watchdog opens criminal probe into M camo mistake MORE (R-Ky.) backed the measure, but he and his lieutenants did not whip the vote.

Five Republicans rejected it: Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsWarren: Entire country must speak up on GOP healthcare bill Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Kim Kardashian to followers: Tell your senators to vote against ObamaCare repeal MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiWarren: Entire country must speak up on GOP healthcare bill Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Kim Kardashian to followers: Tell your senators to vote against ObamaCare repeal MORE (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Rand PaulRand PaulSenate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Overnight Healthcare: Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate | McCain returns to vote | GOP floats scaled-down healthcare bill Overnight Regulation: House votes to repeal forced arbitration rule | Dems look to ban controversial pesticide | House panel wants to hear from tech CEOs on net neutrality MORE (Ky.). Paul opposed the House-passed budget because it did not cut enough spending, while the four centrists rejected it for being too sweeping. 

This year, Ryan worked with Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding Senators urge quotas on Canadian lumber, consultations with Congress Pressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned MORE (D-Ore.) on the Medicare reform provisions in the budget. Wyden’s effort sparked grumbling from some on the left who said the Oregon senator had given political cover to Republicans.

Wyden defended his partnership with Ryan in an interview with The Hill earlier this year, adding that he is opposed to Ryan’s overall budget. 

The Medicare changes, however, could attract a few more votes from GOP centrists. 

Many on Capitol Hill will be closely watching Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerSenate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment OPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 Dem campaign arm slams Heller, Flake on healthcare votes MORE’s (R-Nev.) position on the Ryan plan. Heller, in a tough election battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) in Reid’s home state, backed Ryan’s blueprint in 2011.

Last month, he told the Las Vegas Sun that he was undecided on Ryan’s new plan. 

Democrats say Republicans are playing politics by seeking the budget votes, stressing they want to address other matters.

“Rather than focusing on jobs, Tea Party Republicans in the Senate want to force votes on a bunch of plans to end Medicare as we know it. The only difference among their plans is whether they get rid of Medicare in two years or 10. All of them would raise interest rates on student loans; all of them would give huge tax breaks to millionaires; but none of them will pass,” Senate Democratic spokesman Brian Fallon said.

Baer, meanwhile, defended the contents of the Obama budget. 

“The president put forward a balanced approach that achieves over $4 trillion in deficit reduction by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share while protecting our middle class, seniors and those programs that are vital to our economic recovery,” he said. 

A GOP aide said the White House argument on the Sessions bill is bogus.  The staffer argued that whenever a budget proposal is put into legislative language, it only contains the yearly spending totals, not the entire accompanying policy language.  

A Democratic aide said the Sessions measure only represents “parts” of Obama’s budget.

“It is the president’s budget. Voting for it is a vote for the president’s budget. There are not shades of interpretation,” the Republican aide countered. “They are doing this because members don’t want to be on the record voting for a plan that accumulates $11 trillion in debt, that has that much spending and that much in taxes.”

GOP aides said it is very likely the vote will come on Thursday once a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is dealt with.

Reid could try to block a vote on the Obama budget, but the GOP believes the Nevada Democrat views this as more embarrassing than simply holding the vote. 

Under an untested provision of budget law, any member can offer any budget resolution for a vote now that the Budget Committee has failed to report one to the floor. Reid would have to go down to the floor to try to block a member from offering the budget.

His blocking move could be overturned by the Senate parliamentarian, and a vote would then happen anyway. 

The Senate will likely hold votes on other budgets crafted by Sens. Paul, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mike LeeMike LeeSenate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal GOP senators back Sessions after Trump attacks MORE (R-Utah).

Lee’s budget, introduced last week, embodies budget proposals from the Heritage Foundation. It calls for a 25 percent flat income tax rate, transforms Social Security into a type of insurance and contains a Medicare premium support option. It would balance the budget by 2017 by cutting spending by $7 trillion.