WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Thursday that Republicans will force a vote on the budget that President Barack Obama submitted to Congress in February.
Designed to put Democrats in a tough spot, the move is retaliatory in nature. On Wednesday, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he would be staging a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget proposal -- despite a near certain expectation that it would fail to pass the chamber.
A spokesman for McConnell told The Huffington Post that the vote on Obama’s budget -- which includes across board cuts to government programs that would reduce the deficit by an estimated $1.1 trillion -- would come on the same day Reid schedules his vote.
McConnell plans to mimic whatever legislative maneuver Reid uses to bring the Ryan budget to the floor. For example, if the majority leader offers the GOP plan via an amendment to another piece of legislation, the minority leader will do the same with Obama’s budget. If Ryan's budget is offered as a “Sense of the Senate,” the same pattern will transpire with the White House plan.
“I understand that the Majority Leader would like to have a vote on the House-passed Ryan budget and we will,” McConnell said, in a prepared statement. “But we’ll have a vote on the President’s budget at the same time. Since there is no Democrat budget in the Senate, we’ll give our colleagues an opportunity to stand with the President in failing to address the problems facing our nation while calling for trillions in new spending, massive new debt and higher taxes on American energy, families and small businesses across the country.”
The politics of McConnell's and Reid’s ploys are somewhat different. When Ryan’s budget comes for a vote, the key figures to watch will be moderate Republicans up for re-election -- including Senators Scott Brown from Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe from Maine -- who may be wary about the changes it makes to Medicare and Medicaid.
The primary defectors on Obama’s budget are more likely to be from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, rather than some of the more conservative members like, say, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
That said, with 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, neither proposal will pass. And so, the next few weeks –- which will feature a high-profile budget meeting with Vice President Joe Biden as well as the results of the Senate's "Gang of Six" budget talks -- are likely to be filled with as many theatrics as substantive discussions.
UPDATE: Reid spokesman Jon Summers, sends over the following response:
The President has already revised his budget proposal. But Republicans continue to embrace the Ryan budget as their own. This is little more than a stunt to distract from the fact the Senate Republicans will soon have to put on the record whether they support the House Republican plan to kill Medicare as we know it. They're afraid of this vote and, given how they are getting an earful in their districts, it's easy to understand why.
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