With pundits, economists and even some lawmakers warning of a fiscal policy meltdown by year’s end, the Senate will embark today on a series of budget votes that appear designed for political show and are destined to fail.
“These are people basically positioning themselves on budget issues,” Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
Senate Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to hold up to five votes today. Those will include dueling votes in which one party introduces the other party’s plan to make the point that it can’t pass.
For example, Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) will present a resolution that mimics President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget plan, and Democrats are expected to offer the House-passed blueprint authored by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“Sessions bringing up President Obama’s budget — I don’t think that is because of his loyalty to the president or admiration for his approach. It’s clearly to put people on the record,” Durbin said. “The same thing is true with Paul Ryan’s budget.”
Nevertheless, “they are entitled to it under the rules, and we will have our votes,” Durbin continued. The Senate is expected to vote down all five proposals.
But even as the leaders tee up futile budget votes, Durbin said that he continues working with the “gang of six,” a group of three Democrats and three Republicans who have sought to put together a deficit reduction package similar to the one proposed by the president’s fiscal commission. That commission, known as Bowles-Simpson, was headed by former Clinton administration Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), and it called for a $4 trillion cut in the deficit over 10 years by tackling entitlements, spending and tax policy.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a gang of six member, said the group hopes to develop a plan that could be the model for action in the upcoming lame-duck session.
“I think that is possible; I mean, something has to be done,” he said.
He noted that the group’s work was complicated by the failure of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the super committee.
“We had some differences that were still unresolved relative to taxes and health care, and they are still there and we are still discussing things,” Chambliss said.
The super committee was established as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, and its failure to produce a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction deal triggered automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, that are set to take effect in January.
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.