On the heels of last week’s payroll tax deal, Washington pundits began asking whether the Party of No was dead. As is often the case, the professional pundits have it all wrong. The Party of No is alive and well.
This time around though, the partiers have a “D” next to their name. When President Obama unveiled his budget last week, his former Democratic Senate colleagues met it with a mix of silence and condemnation.
One of President Obama’s closest confidants, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), remained noticeably silent. The inside-Washington publication Roll Call observed that Senator Reid instead “referenced former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s bold push for a transnational highway system in the 1950s.”
As others have noted, Senator Reid lauded President Obama’s budget request last year, before voting against it. Not only did every single one of his Democratic colleagues vote against that budget (they claimed it was because the President was going to re-submit a budget with real solutions), they also voted against every single budget plan presented in the Senate. Perhaps most alarming, though, is that it has now been 1,027 days since Senate Democrats bothered with a budget of their own.
Despite what President Obama’s chief of staff Jack Lew might believe, passing a budget in the Senate is not all that difficult – you just need a simple majority. Nonetheless, Senator Reid confirmed that the Senate does “not need to bring a budget to the floor this year.”
To their credit, the cast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe tried to get some answers from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND)…except the chairman was a no-show. The banter between the cast said it all:
Joe Scarborough: TJ, do you have the wrong shot there?
TJ (producer): Umm…this is the right shot.
Joe: That’s the right shot?
Mika Brzezinski: Well, I don't see him.
Joe: He's not there.
TJ: Maybe he's running late, I don't know.
Mike Barnicle: Uhhh…he could be at Cardinal spring training.
Joe: I was looking for an answer to that question. Where's the budget?
Mika: Maybe he's looking for the budget.
TJ: Wait, there he is.
Mika: Excuse me, Senator.
Joe: Senator -- that's not him.
It went on, getting so bad that MSNBC dropped in some sounds of crickets chirping.
But this is not all about Senators Reid or Conrad though. Many of their Democratic colleagues were openly hostile to President Obama’s budget request. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), who is running for reelection, said, “This budget proposal is simply a case of misplaced priorities when it comes to Arkansas.”
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is also running for reelection, said, “I looked at the president’s proposed budget, the projected deficits, the accumulated debt over the next decade — and wondered: what are we doing?”
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – whose reelection fate is tied to President Obama’s due to Missouri’s “swing state” status – said, “this budget still includes unacceptable deficit levels, and I’m ready to work with Democrats and Republicans alike to tackle this problem.”
Criticizing and voting against numerous budget plans is not a solution. Despite all of the talk, it is quickly becoming clear that Senate Democrats (including McCaskill) have no interest in laying down a positive agenda; instead, they prefer to attack any plan put forth.
In fairness to Senate Democrats though, they are just taking cues from the White House. Even though President Obama submitted a budget plan, it was completely devoid of leadership. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that President Obama’s budget was “unsustainable.”
It got even worse for Secretary Geithner, though. He admitted to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that the Obama administration was not “say[ing] we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is we don't like yours…” Translation: we will not produce a real solution just ridicule yours.
For those willing to look past the liberal media’s laser-like focus on contraception (they willfully ignored the religious liberty aspect of the debate), it became perfectly clear that Senate Democrats do not have a positive agenda; instead they would rather make the fight about their Republican colleagues and the bold reforms proposed by Chairman Ryan.
Let there be no doubt, the Party of No is alive and well in Washington.