The Supreme Court arguments this week has taken the focus away from budget week in the House. A series of budget bills have already come up for a vote, with final passage of the Ryan budget, which ends Medicare as we know it and ratchets down discretionary spending over time to a tiny nub, expected today.
Pretty much any member of Congress who puts together a budget at this point is eligible for getting a substitute amendment to a vote on the floor. So far, we’ve seen three. Republican Mick Mulvaney introduced the Obama 2013 budget, and that got absolutely destroyed on a vote of 0-414. That’s right, it didn’t get a single vote. It also wasn’t the entire Obama budget, just the top-line numbers. So it read as merely a vote for increasing the national debt.
“This is politics at its absolute worst: presenting something as the President’s budget without the policy detail, without the explanation to the American people about what’s in the President’s budget,” he said. “And as a result, he presents a very misleading version of what the President has asked us to do.”
Mulvaney seemed to relish the idea of bringing up a proposal based on Obama’s numbers, and openly wondered, tongue-in-cheek, why no Democrats sought to introduce it. He then criticized it by saying it does not foresee a balanced budget at any point in the future.
“The budget that the President offered and that is contained in this amendment never balances,” he said. “It is a balanced approach to reach a never-balancing budget.”
Emanuel Cleaver introduced the Congressional Black Caucus budget, an annual rite. This year it got 107 votes.
But the most interesting portion of the night was the vote on a plan modeled on Bowles-Simpson, the plan from the chairs of the 2010 catfood commission. Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH) introduced the budget, which includes all the elements of Bowles-Simpson, including the tax increases, entitlement cuts, and magic asterisk for health care. And to prove that nobody in Washington cares about deficit reduction as much as they talk about it, the Bowles-Simpson plan crashed and burned, attracting only 38 votes.
Liberal and conservative groups appeared to be so alarmed that the budget resolution might gain momentum Wednesday night that they issued sharp news releases hours before the vote warning members not to compromise.
The White House and many Democrats have called for deficit reduction through a combination of targeted spending cuts and large tax increases. Many Republicans, particularly congressional leaders, have said they won’t support a deficit-reduction plan that raises taxes, and they have said any deal would require a large restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid.
Paul Ryan himself, who was a member of the Bowles-Simpson committee, spoke against the bill, saying it would keep Obamacare in place and raise taxes. On the Democratic side, obviously the cuts to the safety net were a bridge too far. This doesn’t mean the end of a “grand bargain” framework – the leaders that brought Bowles-Simpson forward see it as a starting point – but it’s a pretty humiliating setback.
So today we will see votes on the Progressive Caucus’ Budget for All, the official Democratic budget alternative, the Republican Study Group budget, and finally the Ryan plan, which is expected to pass on a party-line vote. David Rogers reports that Ryan backed down and will allow funding for natural disasters to go above the spending caps in the agreement, as per the deal made last August.