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Posted at 4:45 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Harry Reid blows it again

By Jennifer Rubin

Just as we saw on the Senate votes on taxes during the lame-duck session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) led his party over the cliff on spending cuts. On the Senate Democrats' paltry package, Reid could round up only 42 votes. (He has 53 Democrats). Reid lost 11 votes on his side: Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.). You can tell that the Nelsons, Kohl and McCaskill are nervous about re-election.

On the Republican spending cuts, the Republicans did even better, grabbing 44 votes. No Democrats voted for the Republican package . Playing to the gallery and the Tea Party, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), all voted no. As least we know who is serious about governing.

Reid has demonstrated that he doesn't have a majority -- not by a long shot -- for his do-not-much-of-anything approach to spending. So as soon as Biden gets back from his travels, he can oversee those budget negotiations. I'm guessing the final number will be closer to $61 billion than to $4 billion. Republicans have more votes, after all.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 9, 2011; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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"Jim Webb (D-W.Va.)."

Jim Webb is a Senator from Virginia, not West Virginia.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 9, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

$61 billion is a joke given the magnitude of our deficit. The Republicans should say, "This is all we will appropriate. We'll negotiate on what to spend the money on, not the amount."

Posted by: eoniii | March 9, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

It is hard to figure out what Reid is thinking. He keeps throwing what little prestige he has away on a losing cause.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 9, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

There are two big bills that most folks agree must pass: the balance of FY11 funding and the increase to the debt ceiling. To date the former has been replaced by a succession of continuing resolutions (CRs) and the latter has been put off until the very last minute which will likely occur on or before April 15. Maybe there’s an opportunity here, but first some background.

The CRs cause great havoc within the federal agencies and are expensive for government contractors because many of their contracts are incrementally funded; a large percentage are behind in their funding, requiring contractors to finance their work to a greater extent than what they are accustomed to. Healthy companies, large and small, have few difficulties expending lines of credit, but many not-so-robust companies, especially the small ones, are seeing expected profits eaten up by interest charges. In some cases agencies are having to delay action on follow-on contracts by extending incumbents because they don’t have clear budgetary authority to make the new awards. Remember, the FY11 budget was never passed and the CR is actually based on the FY10 budget authority. NASA has one $400+M contract it neither wants nor needs, but it has the budget for it. Bizarre.

Today’s vote is quite interesting because it shows that Reid is not in control of his caucus, diminishing what he and his lieutenant Schumer can threaten. The House is where the real power is and there’s just enough time to pass a combo debt ceiling increase and full FY11 budget with the $61B (or whatever that number is) in cuts in one bill.

Voting on a combo will be interesting because the vote will be painful for everybody. Several Tea-Partiers who have pushed hard for the FY11 cuts have vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling. The old guard of both parties are not keen on the cuts, but are of course in favor of raising the debt ceiling. Boehner will have the votes in the House, but it will take enough time to put the bill together and get it through the House that the Senate will find itself on the edge of a cliff, potentially responsible for shutting down the government and hitting the debt ceiling.

What will Obama do? Heh, let’s find out by giving him a dose of Chicago medicine.

Another advantage of an approach like this is that it will clear the deck for the new set of battles for the FY12 budget that have to start ASAP.

I am not a parliamentary rules expert; there may be technical rules that make a combo difficult if not impossible. But there are enough sharpies in the House and Senate who can work magic when they’re motivated.

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 9, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

At least we know who is serious about cutting the deficit... and that would be Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim De Mint, the only ones not pitching theater about reducing the INCREASE of spending rate by about one percent, under either proposal.

They need to get serious or get out and give up their chairs to representatives who will.

Posted by: sailingaway1 | March 9, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I saw that Bill Gross's PIMCO bond fund, the world's largest, will no longer buy US Treasuries. The risk is too high for the reward. We are approaching the day when our borrowing costs will skyrocket, like Greece's, because our credit will be so badly impaired. Unlike Greece, there will be no one to bail us out.

We have no rational choice other than to cut our spending. Either we do it now or the bond market will do it for us within just a few years.

Posted by: eoniii | March 9, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Cutting to the bone is one thing, but when you start talking about eliminating government funded cowboy-poets, you are stepping over the line. You know why Rome fell, don't you?

Posted by: Larry3435 | March 10, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, but if they're 26 & under they can stay on mommy/daddy's health insurance to create.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 10, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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