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The Senate voted last night on 4 competing budget plans, and rejected all of them, before heading out of town for the Memorial Day recess.
State of Play
The series of votes gave the American public a preview of the big issues that will dominate next year’s elections, namely, spending cuts and entitlement reform (especially Medicare).
The press this morning is focusing on the Senate’s rejection of the House-passed (Ryan) budget 40-57, but they’re being much quieter about the fact that President Obama’s budget was defeated 0-97.
The House Republican plan got 40 votes in the Senate. The President’s plan got zero. Not a single U.S. senator voted in favor of President Obama's budget. This was a plan, remember, that all the top Senate Democrats praised 6 weeks ago. Last night, they all voted against it. It was an absolutely stinging rebuke of a sitting President by a Senate controlled by his own political party.
Meanwhile, all of the swing state Republican senators sided with Paul Ryan and the House Republicans.
Last night’s votes confirmed something else as well. The Democrats really have become the Party of No Ideas. They didn’t offer a budget proposal of their own. They haven't bothered to pass a budget for 757 days now. And they’ve clearly decided to spend the next 18 months focusing all of their fire on the rather modest Medicare reform proposals in the House budget, calling them “the Republican plan to kill Medicare.” (Their own Medicare plan: rationing, benefit cuts, and bankruptcy.)
The Senate voted on 4 budget plans, offered by:
(A simple majority of the 100-member Senate was required for a budget to pass. All 4 budgets were defeated. FreedomWorks supported the 3 alternatives to the Obama budget.)
The Obama Budget (failed 0-97) was the biggest loser. It wouldn’t cut spending, reform entitlements, or shrink government, but would raises taxes on the middle class.
The House-Passed Budget (defeated 40-57), which would reduce spending by nearly $6 trillion over the next decade, did more respectably, garnering 40 votes in favor, to 57 against. All Democrats voted against it, along with 5 Republicans: Scott Brown (R-MA); Susan Collins (R-ME); Olympia Snowe (R-ME); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); and Rand Paul (R-KY). (Sen. Paul opposed it because it didn’t go far enough.)
The Toomey Budget (defeated 42-55) garnered 2 more votes than the House budget, picking up the liberal Murkowski (because it didn’t offer specific entitlement reforms) and the libertarian Paul (because it balances the budget in 10 years instead of 30 years as in the House-passed plan).
The Rand Paul Budget (defeated 7-90) was the boldest plan, balancing the budget in just 5 years, and eliminating 4 cabinet departments (HUD, Commerce, Energy, and Education). Voting against it were all Democrats and all but 7 Republicans. The Magnificent Seven were: Tom Coburn (R-OK); Jim DeMint (R-SC); David Vitter (R-LA); Mike Lee (R-UT); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Rand Paul (R-KY); and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Current Score: Republicans 40, Obama 0
The battle lines have been drawn. The Republicans have put forward a comprehensive plan to avert national bankruptcy by reducing spending without raising taxes. The Democrats have no plan, except to oppose and demonize Republicans (and the tea party) at every turn.
Last night's votes were a temporary setback for budget restraint but a moral victory for the cause of fiscally conservative, constitutionally limited government. To vindicate that cause in 2012, reformers have no choice but to remain bold and defend their principles.
A good place to start: Demand that Democrats produce their own budget plan.
Dean Clancy is Freedomworks’s Legislative Counsel and Vice President, Health Care Policy.