The House floor today will become the Baskin-Robbins of budgets: Every political persuasion has its own flavor.
Members have already said they will double-dip and vote for multiple spending plans, but with seven budgets to consider during floor debate, it is becoming increasingly clear that Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s blueprint is the only one that can pass the chamber.
Even if the Wisconsin Republican’s $1.028 trillion plan wins out, however, it would be a symbolic victory at best. Democratic leadership has pointed out that last summer’s Budget Control Act is the law of the land and they and the Senate will stick to its $1.047 trillion level.
“Everybody knows that Ryan’s budget is not going to be taken up by the Senate and passed. So it will be deemed here, but effectively as a means of balancing the budget it’s dead,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R- Idaho), a member of the Budget Committee who said he will vote for the Ryan’s plan.
As a result, Simpson and other House moderates engaged on Tuesday, hoping, amid, or perhaps because of, the partisan bickering, they can sneak a balanced deficit reduction deal through the House.
Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) are gathering support for a plan modeled on the deficit reduction solutions suggested by a White House-commissioned panel led by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Clinton-era White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
“Whereas all the other proposals have a snowball’s chance in a microwave of actually becoming something enacted in the Senate, this one’s got a shot,” LaTourette said Tuesday.
Cooper almost offered the same proposal last year, but he said he pulled it after a request from the bipartisan “gang of six” Senators working on deficit reduction. This year, Cooper said, he has their blessing.
Still, Sen. Mark Warner, a member of the gang of six, was not hot on the idea Tuesday.
“I share the intent,” the Virginia Democrat said. “It’d be great to have more time to build the case and lay out the details. But I also understand the frustrations of continuing to wait.”
Still, Mike Simpson said there is some discussion about whether now is the right time.
“You’re trying to put a common-sense, balanced solution to the problem in the middle of the most partisan debate that will occur in Congress,” he said. “In this environment, you’ll have people that would otherwise vote for Simpson-Bowles that would vote against it because they’re going to vote for the Ryan budget or they’re going to vote for the [Democratic] budget on the other side.”
Indeed, one of the Simpson-Bowles plan’s boosters, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), declined to say Tuesday whether he would support the deal.
Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) predicted many Democrats could support the Simpson-Bowles budget, but LaTourette was skeptical, holding that the political allure of bashing the GOP on Medicare would be too great to resist.
“I think some of the higher-ups in the Democratic Party are very much looking forward to beating us like baby seals over the Medicare thing in the Ryan budget and they don’t want to lose that message,” he said.
Though the Ryan budget will likely lose more than a few GOP votes, conservatives who initially spurned it are falling in line.
Even as Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan presented his own budget Tuesday morning, he acknowledged that he and many others in the RSC will back Ryan. “I think the vast majority of folks up here are going to support the Conference budget because that’s the one budget that can get 218 votes and pass,” the Ohio Republican said.
The RSC budget balances the budget sooner than Ryan’s does, and that should attract GOP support, said Budget Vice Chairman Scott Garrett, an RSC member.
“I would suggest that every member of the Republican Conference, who just several months ago ... voted for a balanced budget amendment ... have to think long and hard when the only budget that comes to the floor this week that will actually fulfill that promise will be the RSC budget,” the New Jersey lawmaker said.
The RSC budget nearly passed last year, when Democrats voted “present,” leaving only Republicans represented in the vote tally. Similar high jinks could occur at Thursday’s floor vote.
Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has presented a Democratic budget and is flanked to his left by alternatives from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has sponsored President Barack Obama’s budget as an amendment, essentially daring Democrats to vote for it.
Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Ryan’s budget will probably be taken up in the Senate, too, as will the Obama budget and one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Unlike Van Hollen, Sessions said he will likely not present a minority caucus alternative, laying the blame for that on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.