Dems: GOP using budget amendment push as a distraction

Dems: GOP using budget amendment push as a distraction
© Cameron Lancaster

Top Democratic senators on Wednesday rebuffed Republicans' push for a balanced budget amendment and questioned the GOP's commitment to the Constitution.

Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately MORE (D-Ill.) said Republicans were trying to distract Americans from their struggle to agree on a budget and their refusal to consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. 

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“Before we start trying to edit the Constitution, don’t you think we ought to try to follow it?" asked Schumer. "Don’t you think we should be doing our jobs?”

“The clear language of the Constitution is obviously is not enough to lead the Republican majority in the Senate today," ecohed Durbin, referring to the Supreme Court showdown.  “If you could cavalierly ignore that, why wouldn't you ignore this?"

Schumer's barbs came hours after Obama announced the nomination of District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the high court.

Since Scalia's death on Feb. 13, Democrats have claimed Republicans are shirking on their constitutional oath to consider presidential nominees. Republican senators — save for a handful of vulnerable incumbents — have been lockstep with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE's (R-Ky.) vow not to consider a nominee until the new president is sworn in.

The confrontation happened in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on adopting a balanced budget amendment while House colleagues marked up a budget proposal across the Capitol. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Texas) opened the hearing with a dire assessment of the country's fiscal situation and suggested a constitutional amendment could be the only effective fix.

“So often when we bring up this topic, many of our friends across the aisle act like it’s no big deal. My hope is that the party of Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump sues to block NY prosecutors' subpoena for his tax returns Most voters say there is too much turnover in Trump administration RNC spokeswoman on 2020 GOP primary cancellations: 'This is not abnormal' MORE will agree to step up and work with us in a bipartisan way to find a legislative, constitutional or any other suggestion they may have about how we can dig our way out of this mountain of debt," said Cornyn, referencing the balanced budget passed under the former president.

But Schumer panned the hearing as "a convenient political cover for a Republican majority that is rapidly backtracking off a promise to do a budget.”

Durbin, who was part of the 2012 Simpson-Bowles panel charged with balancing the budget, testified as a witness and charged Republicans with ducking an honest attempt to work down the debt.

"It’s so much easier to say ‘We’re just going to change the Constitution, and then things will happen,' " said Durbin. "The reality is, your party is in control, in the House and in the Senate, and if you believe a balanced budget is the best thing for America, where is it? We’re not seeing one produced by your party.”

McConnell vowed to adopt a budget each year when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, but squabbles among House Republicans have complicated fulfilling that promise.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.), a notorious policy wonk and former House Budget Committee chairman, even floated the possibility of not adopting a budget if a majority of Republican couldn't agree to one.