Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee say they hope to keep the focus during this week’s expected marathon markup on setting a sound course for the country’s fiscal future.
Though such issues have dominated the national political conversation since 2008, this week marks the first time in four years that members will actually debate a budget resolution, with proceedings expected to kick off Wednesday.
“Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray, and her colleagues, will introduce the long-delayed Democrat plan on Wednesday,” Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions of Alabama said Saturday in the GOP weekly address, previewing the Republican rebuttal to the proposal to be unveiled by the Democratic senator from Washington.
“I fear it will crush American workers and our economy with trillions in new taxes, spending and debt,” Sessions said. “I fear Chairman Murray will follow the president’s lead: raising taxes to enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people.”
And despite the promise to keep the discourse focused on the two party’s divergent plans for fiscal health, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few gotcha amendments from both sides.
“I think it’s important that we offer amendments that really define the course that we think the country ought to go, and have some fundamental directional changes to put America on a sound path financially, that is what I am focused on,” Sessions told CQ Roll Call.
However, the Alabama Republican, as well as Republican and Democratic aides, would not rule out the possibility that both sides will offer amendments — both in committee and on the floor — designed to score political points.
“If they choose to go down that road, then there will be equal pain on both sides,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said.
“We are moving forward with a serious process with a budget that reflects balanced priorities,” the aide continued. “If the GOP use [the process] for political tricks then it shows they don’t have any ideas except to take political pot shots.”
A Senate Republican aide said the process would likely run the typical course and include a free-for-all of amendments offered on the floor.
“The majority of the debate will be on the direction each side wants the take the country. Obviously Democrats want to raise taxes and increase spending,” the GOP aide said. Probably when the debate “hits the floor there will be a traditional vote-a-rama — an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-exercise where both parties propose amendments on various topics.”
The committee markup is typically seen as a dress rehearsal for the floor debate. Budget debates on the floor enjoy an expedited process that allows all senators to offer, and get votes on, an unlimited number of amendments on a cornucopia of subjects. The process often involves hours and hours of clerks continuously calling the roll.
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