It was “budget bonanza” day in the U.S. Senate yesterday, with the chamber taking up several budget bills with the express purpose of defeating all of them. It was, at a certain level, inane political theater, which Capitol Hill reporters were inclined to ignore.
I’m not unsympathetic to the indifference. Watching senators go through the motions yesterday certainly seemed like a petty “game” in which the parties tried to score cheap points off of one another. We even got another round of press releases about the 1,000+ days since the Senate approved a budget (a talking point that isn’t really true).
But before the political world blows off yesterday’s developments altogether, there was one vote that actually warrants some attention. As Joan McCarter explained:
[Wednesday], except for a couple of hypocrites worried about reelection, Senate Republicans joined their House brethren and voted to end Medicare as we know it. The only really interesting vote was on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, the one that the House passed and that Mitt Romney has endorsed. It failed 58-41.
Five Republicans (Scott Brown [MA], Susan Collins [ME], Dean Heller [NV], Rand Paul [KY] and Olympia Snowe [ME]) rejected that bill.
I won’t rehash all the minute details of the Ryan agenda again, but let’s not forget, this is a budget plan that ends Medicare’s guaranteed benefit, takes health care coverage from millions of Americans, radically redistributes wealth in the wrong direction, slashes taxes on the very wealthy, and would “take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure.”
What’s more, the Ryan plan does not reduce the debt, either.
This is less a budget plan and more a right-wing fantasy. And yet, in an election year, 41 Republicans – about 90% of the caucus – threw their support to this plan, even though they knew full well it wouldn’t pass.
Incidentally, given the institutional abuses that have become the norm in the chamber, 41 senators have the power to stop just about everything – it’s the minimum number needed to maintain a filibuster. How are mainstream policymakers supposed to negotiate with 41 senators who think the Paul Ryan plan is a sensible agenda? I honestly don’t know.