The Associated Press reports on the Senate votes today:
The Senate is expected Wednesday to defeat both a slashing Republican budget bill and a less painful Democratic plan, in a pair of politically tinged votes cast ironically with an eye toward trumpeting progress over gridlock.
In a demonstration of official Washington's often curious logic, the idea was to show both sides that they need to move toward each other to break a bitter stalemate over how much to cut spending as Congress wraps up last year's unfinished budget work. The combatants are facing a March 18 deadline that already has Republicans in the House drafting another stopgap spending measure to make sure the government doesn't shut down if a broader agreement isn't reached by then.
But that's not quite right. After all, Joe Biden was supposed to be overseeing negotiations, but Senate Democrats couldn't cough up any cuts that would pass the laugh test. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) bashed the Democrats:
"The only entity in America that's not sacrificing during this economic downturn is federal government workers," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I can't guarantee that somebody might not ... be affected. But we have largely insulated the federal government from this recession."
McConnell and his fellow Republicans say the Democratic alternative -- it contains just $5 billion in fresh cuts -- doesn't go nearly far enough.
"Democrats are going to have to do a lot better than this if we stand a chance of getting our nation's fiscal house in order," he said. "Frankly, it's embarrassing."
There are a lot of embarrassing assertions and positions flying around. Here's one from Ezra Klein: "There's not much money to begin with in non-security discretionary spending, and because it's such a popular place to search for cuts, there's not much waste, either. It's like trying to clean your house by doing more and more to organize the hallway closet."
Well, not really. There is plenty of money there, which is why the debt commission proposed significant cuts in defense spending. And, as a Capitol Hill wag noted to me, "When have we cleaned out that closet? Since the president took office, government has packed the domestic discretionary spending hallway closet to the gills. Twenty-four percent increase in base spending, and it's 84 percent when you add stimulus on top. Look at GAO report on duplicative programs -- you think government has ever done a 'spring cleaning'?"
Moreover, the notion that Republicans are the obstructionists on entitlement cuts is laughable. They have been pleading with the White House to show some spine, but to no avail. But, of course, Democrats want to raise taxes. A Senate senior staffer observed that their approach boiled down to this: "Rather than cut 'investments' in a poor economy, we need to look at raising taxes on oil and gas [the 'minivan tax'], raise taxes on millionaires [that a Democratic Senate rejected last year] -- anything but cut spending. They're ridiculous."
But it should be apparent to all but the Obama spin-squad that Democrats are trying every stall tactic they can dream up. But March 18 will be here before you know it and once again the Democrats will be forced to put their own members on the hot seat.
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