Smooth: McConnell Exploits Reid's Budget Vote Theatrics

Posted: Apr 29, 2011 11:56 AM
A very clever maneuver from Senate Republicans' under-appreciated smooth operator.  Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a somewhat astounding announcement: He's planning to call for an up-or-down Senate vote on Paul Ryan's House-passed 2012 budget.  This is remarkable for several reasons.  Traditionally, majority leaders from both parties only call for votes on legislation they support, and for which they've whipped enough votes to assure passage.  Neither criteria applies in this case.  Reid is playing politics:

The idea behind Reid's plan is to force Senate Republicans to vote on the measure, which could put incumbents facing tough reelections on the spot.

The Ryan budget is not expected to pass the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

"I would hope they do," Reid said when asked if he thinks the Senate will reject the plan. "It would be one of the worst things to happen to this country if that came into effect."

That clever dog!  Reid is going to force Senate Republicans -- very few of whom actually face tough re-elections -- to vote on a budget that the American people...well, don't really mind.  Not to be outdone, Reid's Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has orchestrated a political counter-punch to Reid's shenanigans.  Brilliant: 

A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) put Republicans on the spot by saying he will bring the House Republicans’ budget proposal up for a vote,  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) turned the tables by exercising his legislative prerogative to call for a vote on President Barack Obama’s budget.

The two votes amount to legislative brinkmanship by both party leaders. Mr. Reid wants to put Republicans on record supporting legislation authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that would eventually transform Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. McConnell, meanwhile, wants to force Democrats to vote on a plan that rolls back Bush-era tax cuts for people who make more than $250,000 and ignores many of the long-term costs driving the deficit.

“I understand that the Majority Leader would like to have a vote on the House-passed Ryan budget and we will,” Mr. McConnell said in a 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.”

Translation: "Alright chumps, if you're going to pull a stunt that forces us to vote on a controversial but serious budget plan -- without even pretending to introduce your own alternative -- we'll force you to vote on Barack Obama's toxic budget proposal that raises taxes, does nothing to address long-term drivers of our debt, and adds $9.5 Trillion of red ink to the nation's bottom line.  Let's do this thing!

One Senate Republican (guess who?) has indicated she won't vote for the Ryan budget.  Multiple vulnerable Democrats have criticized Obama's version.  Prediction: As we saw during the 2011 CR cuts showdown, the Republican plan will notch more votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate than the Democrats' (or in the case, the president's) alternative.  Both will fail, but Harry Reid will be dealt another black eye in the process.

UPDATE - Sen. Jeff Sessions welcomes the dueling votes:

Given their heated rhetoric opposing spending discipline, I assume Senate Democrat leaders will happily call the president’s budget to a vote to demonstrate their support for a plan that dramatically grows our deficits and our taxes—making us less prosperous and less competitive as a result.