As the Senate was preparing to finalize the fiscal 2016 budget resolution, both sides seem to want the spending blueprint to be an election issue next year.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., for instance, is touting the new GOP majority approach as returning the Senate to normal operations.
"The new Republican majority came in, opened up the process, exhibited a determination to return to regular order, and so we have a major achievement today," Wicker told reporters Tuesday.
The Senate is scheduled adopt the budget conference report before the end of Tuesday's session.
Wicker said the budget "aspires" to balance over a decade, putting the onus on voters to decide if that's the course on which the country goes forward once President Barack Obama is no longer in the White House.
"Whether we get there or not will depend a lot on what the voters decide in next year's presidential election and in the Senate and House races. But as compared to the president of the United States, who decided not even to try for a balanced budget, our budget that we will enact today aspires to come to balance in 10 years," Wicker said. He added that economic growth could help balance the budget even sooner.
Democrats counter that the cuts in the budget over the long term would have consequences, but also argue that the allocations for the fiscal 2016 appropriations process are unworkable in the short-term.
Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, the ranking member on the Appropriations subcommittee that governs Pentagon spending, echoed a challenge issued by no. 3 Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York for the Republicans to advance spending bills at the agreed-upon levels.
"Let's see if the 23, 24 Republican senators up for re-election this time really want to run on this platform," Durbin said after saying he believed the GOP budget identified winners and losers, with the real winners being those who would get relief from the estate tax.
"4,000 Americans who have an estate worth at least $10 million are the winners. They're each going to win about $3 million in tax relief from the Republican budget," Durbin said. "Well then, who are the losers? Well the losers might be 27 million Americans losing their health insurance under the Republican budget, 23 million using community health care clinics that are cut under the Republican budget, 11 million who are benefiting from Pell grants. They're the losers."
Wicker said Republicans would honor the budgetary constraints going forward, which will be tested as the Senate begins the process of drafting spending bills at the Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks. Wicker's senior senator, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, is the chairman of the Appropriations panel.
"We will abide by the caps that we enact this afternoon, and that is a significant achievement that we have not had before," said Wicker. "And then, it gives us absolutely a path to a reconciliation bill to change the affordable health care act into something that works with market principles and provides better choices and better health care for the American people."
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