While the clock is ticking toward the imminent August 2nd deadline for Congress to pass a budget, both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are holding out as long as possible and trading progress on a serious budget for political gains.
Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Kent Conrad, have stalled on producing a budget proposal in the hopes that the Gang of Six talks would prove successful. When it became clear the talks would not lead to a budget compromise, Conrad announced last week that he was putting off a proposal “indefinitely”.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, plans to bring to a vote, budgets proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and President Obama – none of which represent Senate Democrats’ views, and are destined to fail.
But the Republican leadership, like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is actively working against Senate Republicans having a budget they can be held accountable for, according to one Republican staffer, and instructing Republicans to “stand down” on the issue behind the scenes.
McConnell’s strategy, according to the staffer, is to protect moderate Republicans like Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, from having to vote for a more conservative budget. If Reid’s doomed votes go forward as planned, Snowe and Collins can safely vote against them.
Moreover, McConnell’s budget strategy could also include a larger plan that a “do-nothing” Senate will work in his favor to take back the chamber for Republicans in 2012.
“Republicans specialize in playing to lose in the Senate, not forcing tough votes and they would have been complicit in this deal instead of telling Reid it is time to take some tough votes on the budget,” the staffer told The Daily Caller.
In other words, Republicans don’t want to force the budget issue any more than the Democrats do.
One Republican – Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama – is being particularly vocal on the Senate’s failure to seriously engage in a budget debate. On Monday, Sessions spoke on the Senate floor and objected to the Reid’s scheduled budget votes, calling them “cynical political games,” and in doing so, rejected the request for unanimous consent.
“The planned series of votes are designed by the Majority Leader to fail,” said Sessions. “They are designed as a gimmick to distract attention from the unwillingness of Senate Democrats to produce an honest plan. They are designed to keep this Senate form doing its job and defending this Republic from a grave financial danger.”
He also spoke out against the Senate going on Memorial Day recess while no progress is being made on the budget.
His objections, however, do not mean that the budget proposals will not be voted on this week. Scheduling them ahead of time like Reid plans, means that the votes would require unanimous consent (UC). Sessions simply announced he would not approve UC, but because budget resolutions get special treatments under Senate rules, they can be called for a vote at any time.
Reid’s spokesperson, Jon Summers, responded to Session’s threats on Twitter, writing “In case anyone had any doubts, Sen. Sessions just made it clear: Repubs are petrified of voting on their own party’s plan to end Medicare.”