Here we go. Senate Democratic leadership is expected to hold a series of budget votes this evening. They will ask their colleagues to vote on four 2012 budget proposals -- not a single one of which is their own plan. That's because, as we've pointed out ad nauseam, a Democratic plan does not exist. They haven't produced one because they're invested in the political calculation that attacking Republican alternatives will help them win the next election. Their misreading of last night's results in NY-26 will only reinforce that perception. This may be good politics; we shall see. But it is inexcusably irresponsible policy. President Obama has called the status quo "unsustainable," and warns that the rising tide of US debt "will cost us jobs and damage our economy." The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says American red ink is "our biggest security threat" because by 2025, virtually all of our military spending will be unpaid for. Medicare will become insolvent in 2024, five years earlier that its previous projected demise. This is not a game, but Senate Democrats are treating it as such.
Which brings us to this evening's slate of votes. Congress' upper chamber will vote to proceed on Paul Ryan's plan, Pat Toomey's plan, Rand Paul's plan, and -- because Mitch McConnell will exercise his prerogative as minority leader to force it -- President Obama's catastrophic 2012 budget, which was released and widely panned in February. All four votes are expected to fail. From what I hear, the Ryan and Toomey plans will receive the highest number of votes -- likely all from Republicans (though a handful of GOP Senators have already announced their opposition to the House budget). Sen. Paul's budget will fail by a much wider margin, and -- get this -- President Obama's budget could literally receive zero votes.
How could that be? Hill sources tell me that Republicans will vote in lock-step against the president's budget because, well, it's horrendous. It adds $9.5 trillion to the debt over ten years, and entirely ignores his debt commission's entitlement reform recommendations. Democrats, many of whom praised the budget when it was released (stay tuned for more on that), are now expected to overwhelmingly oppose it as well. They will argue that since unveiling his official budget, the president has outlined a new "vision" for debt reduction, rendering his actual on-paper budget obsolete. They'll say that yet another bipartisan commission -- led by Vice President Biden -- must be allowed to do its work, so they have no problem voting down a proposal that the president himself has all but abandoned. This will be their professed cover for voting no. The problem with this move, however, is that President Obama's 2012 budget is literally the only Democrat-generated plan on the table.
Democrats' cynical, high-stakes game of three card monte relies on promoting, then attacking, Republican plans. They explicitly want to be the party of 'no' in this case, not precious "the party of ideas" they claim to be. By committing their own blueprint to paper, they'd invite a genuine debate over competing worldviews -- a confrontation they're desperate to avoid. Instead, they'll sit back, shine the spotlight on GOP proposals, ruthlessly lie about them, and reap the expected electoral windfall. This is not the behavior of responsible leaders or good faith actors; it's a stunningly reckless ploy intended solely for short-term political benefit. Shameful.
I'll close with this quote from President Obama in 2009, chastening the GOP for what he viewed as its knee-jerk opposition to all of his policies. His bottom line -- stop complaining and advance your own solutions:
"I do think that the Republican Party right now hasn't sort of figured out what it's for," Obama said in a White House interview with The Courier-Journal and reporters from five other newspapers. "And so as a proxy, they've just decided 'we're going to be against whatever the other side is for.' That's not what's needed in an economic crisis."
Someone should ask Obama, to whom does this gripe apply today? Stay tuned to The Tipsheet for updates on tonight's showdown.
UPDATE - Friendly reminders: It has now been 756 days since the Democrat-controlled US Senate passed a budget resolution. During that time, Democrats haven't even introduced a proposal. Also, according to federal statute, Congress was supposed to have passed a budget over a month ago.
UPDATE II - Democrats are currently ripping Republicans' plans on the Senate floor. Keith Conrad calls Ryan's budget "not even act of courage," which is rich coming from the chairman of a Budget Committee that has done a giant pile of nothing. Reid chimes in, saying the Ryan plan "makes the rich richer and the sick sicker." He claims it "breaks the promise" of Medicare with American seniors. Of course, the Ryan's plan does not affect current or soon-to-be seniors -- and Medicare's "promise" will be broken in 2024 when the program goes broke.