A year ago, House Republicans linked arms, stepped off the cliff, and voted en masse for Paul Ryan's right-wing budget plan. GOP leaders demanded the support of nervous lawmakers, many of whom feared the party was overreaching just a few months into their term, and more than 98% of the caucus went along, as ordered.
The blowback was far more intense than Republicans expected, especially given the fact that GOP lawmakers had voted to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a private voucher scheme.
A year later, it's happened again. The House this afternoon voted to approve Paul Ryan's new-but-not-improved budget plan, 228 to 191. As was the case in 2011, all House Democrats, including the Blue Dogs, opposed the far-right budget, but today, 10 House Republicans broke ranks and opposed the measure, up from 4 GOP members a year ago.
Of course, while it's noteworthy that 10 Republicans weren't willing to go along with their caucus on this -- and in this group, 10 is a lot -- the fact remains that 95% of the House GOP caucus went along with a budget plan that's so extreme, it would have been considered laughably ridiculous just a few years ago.
I won't rehash all the details 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."
And despite what you heard on the House floor if you watched the debate, the Ryan plan does not reduce the debt, either. It simply punishes the poor severely, in order to finance lavish tax breaks for the wealthy.
This is less a budget plan and more a right-wing fantasy. What's more in this election year, it's also an albatross.
Indeed, as much as Democrats hate this plan, they love the fact that Republicans have voted for this fiasco.
The attack ads, especially in competitive districts, practically write themselves: "Do you support your congressman's vote to gut education, health care, and Medicare, so that billionaires can get another tax break?"
Finally, let's also not forget that Republicans voted for this for no particular reason. I keep coming back to something Jonathan Bernstein recently explained: "[T]his isn't a vote that has to happen."
[I]f the Ryan budget passes the House, what happens next is ... nothing. No Senate vote. No Congressionally-passed budget resolution. Nothing. And Ryan, and Speaker John Boehner, surely know it.It is, as Stan Collender has been saying, a campaign document, nothing more. And yet it's a campaign document that Tea Partiers don't seem to want, and one that will saddle Members in competitive districts with easy-to-attack positions.... To tell the truth, I can't really think of any good precedent: a vote on something that neither the party's conservative or moderate wings wants to take on something that has no chance of advancing beyond that chamber. But Boehner and Ryan are asking Republican members to once again stick themselves with positions that you'll see in Democratic attack ads all the way through Election Day.
I suppose folks like Boehner and Cantor deserve some degree of credit. After all, they managed to convince 228 members of Congress to vote to kill Medicare in an election year. That's no easy task.
But if they're expecting a reward for this madness, they'll probably be waiting for a very long time.
Update: Here's the roll call on the House vote.