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 SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats 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 CornynDemocrats give Trump trade chief high marks GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks 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 ClintonImpeaching the president: At what cost, and by what method? The Evergreen State and the soul of the Democratic Party Biden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility 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 RyanDemocratic debates: What the top candidates need to do Paul Ryan praises Trump: 'He's not taking any crap' The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck 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.