Let's face it: Budget fights aren't always the sexiest of topics, but since yesterday, the US Senate has been debating a series of amendments to the chamber's first budget resolution in nearly four years. Here are a few significant developments so far:
(1) Senators defeated Jeff Sessions' provided that would have required the Democratic majority to balance their budget within ten years using any combination of tax increases, cuts, and reforms they'd like. This was essentially a "show us how you'd balance the budget" amendment. It failed 46-53, with all Republicans and West Virginia's Joe Manchin voting yes, and all other Democrats voting no. Thus, Harry Reid's caucus overwhelmingly defeated even the concept of demonstrating to the American people how Democrats would balance the federal budget ten years from now. As others have pointed out, a number these same Senate Democrats actually campaigned on balancing the budget -- and several served as governors of states where the law required them to do so every year. Balanced budgeting has broad public support, and Republicans will seek to leverage this advantage over the next two years. A group aligned with John Boehner is already going on offense against House Democrats with new ads that will actually air in competitive districts. An early salvo in the 2014 midterm fight:
(2) Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray introduced the House-passed budget as an amendment, just to show that it doesn't have support in the Democrat-held Senate. It was defeated 40-59. This may change later today, but since 2009, every single Senate Democrat has voted against every single budget with which they've been presented.
(3) Utah's Orrin Hatch offered an amendment to repeal Obamacare's job-killing medical device tax, over which even many Democrats have grown anxious. The whole purpose of this tax was to conjure up some on-paper "revenue" to help manufacture a lower CBO score for Obamacare in 2010. Democrats wanted to claim that the law wouldn't add to the deficit (ha!) and would cost less than a trillion dollars (ha ha!), so every last drop of revenue they could squeeze was essential -- no matter how damaging the actual policies would be. Thankfully, the Senate opted to eliminate this tax in a lopsided vote lasy night, 79-20. In the process, the Democrat-led Senate dealt another blow to Obamacare on its third anniversary. Katie has more details.
(4) Michigan Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow's amendment to disapprove of voucherizing Medicare passed easily, 96-3. Republicans felt comfortable backing her symbolic effort because Paul Ryan has insisted all along that his bipartisan Medicare plan does not involve vouchers, but rather "premium support" -- a concept that has a significant lineage of Democratic support.
(5) Just moments ago, Senators blocked Kelly Ayotte's proposal, which would have prevented consideration of any budget that raises taxes, so long as the national unemployment rate remains above 5.5 percent. Why hike up taxes on successful individuals, families, and (especially) businesses when so many Americans are out of work? Well, the irresponsible, unbalanced Reid/Murray budget includes $1.5 trillion in tax increases, so it's no surprise that every Democrat voted against the Ayotte amendment. It was beaten back, 45-54.
(6) Ted Cruz's Obamacare repeal amendment was shot down along strict party lines, 45-54. Every Republican voted yes, every Democrat, no. But hey, the law's going great.
More votes are upcoming, culminating in a "vote-a-rama" flurry of amendments later this afternoon. Will Senate Democrats finally pass a budget? Stay tuned for more...
UPDATE - Sen. Crapo's amendment just failed, along party lines (45-54). It would have provided tax relief for low and middle income families by repealing Obamacare's taxes for those groups. Forced to choose between tax cuts for the middle class and Obamacare, Democrats sided with Obamacare. Again.