In what was largely a symbolic vote, the Senate on Wednesday defeated the House Republican budget proposal crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to cut trillions in federal spending.
Democrats unanimously voted against the measure and were joined by five Republicans, who offered various reasons for voting it down. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, for example, voted against the budget because it cut too little, while Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine pointed to discomfort with the Medicare provisions.
The bill, which passed by the House in April, would cut federal expenditures by $4.4 trillion over ten years, repeal the Affordable Care Act and slow the growth of the cost of some of the nation’s most expensive entitlement programs.
The Senate also voted on President Obama’s proposed budget blueprint, which was was submitted to Congress in February. No members, Republican or Democrat, supported it.
For weeks, Democrats have seized on the Medicare provision within the budget that would turn the popular program into a voucher system to allow seniors to buy their own health care plan in a private market, alleging that the plan would “end Medicare as we know it.” Republicans say that the growth of Medicare is unsustainable and that their plan is necessary to “save” it.
Democratic leaders, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, said this week that the decision to put the proposal to a Senate vote was intended to force the GOP to take a public stand on the issue, despite knowing that it would fail. The party plans to use the Medicare vote as a campaign issue in the 2012 elections.
Republicans hit back, pointing out that under Democratic leadership, the Senate has not passed a budget resolution in 756 days. Congress is supposed to put forth a budget resolution every year according to the Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974. Democratic leaders have not indicated that they have any intention to pass a budget resolution this year. Instead, they are looking to closed-door negotiations between the parties to set spending caps that will be tied to a vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.