The U.S. Senate formally rejected President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget request Wednesday, along with a series of Republican alternatives, as Republicans forced votes on the competing budget plans to highlight Democrats’ failure to advance a formal budget resolution.
The Senate has failed to adopt a formal budget resolution, laying out spending and revenue targets for the coming year, for three years.
Democrats say the exercise is unnecessary this year because Democrats and Republicans wrote spending caps for the year into law in the hard-fought summer deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling.
Republicans counter that the debt deal does not replace a legal requirement that Congress adopt a budget resolution for the year.
Among the Republican plans advanced on the floor was the spending plan authored by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). It would balance the budget over the next three decades, in part by cutting deeply into social safety network spending and revamping Medicare. Like Obama’s budget, it failed to garner adequate votes to continue to a full debate.
Republicans forced the series of budget votes to highlight Democrats’ failure to advance their own plan. The Senate rejected Obama’s budget on a 0 to 99 vote.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters that the lack of Democratic support for Obama’s budget was “stunning.”
“A sitting president of the United States, seeking reelection, can’t lay out a plan that will gain a single vote in the House or Senate for the financial future of America,” he said. “It speaks volumes.”
The vote on Obama’s budget prompted a rebuke from presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, speaking at a fundraiser in Coral Gables, Fla.
“That vote today is another example of the people of Washington seeing that this president can’t get the job done,” Romney said.
Obama’s budget envisioned raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 and lowering the deficit over time, in part by capping agency spending.
But it did not lay out a date when the budget would be in balance and it also included $350 million in new stimulus dollars to help states hire teachers, police officer and lure jobs from overseas.
But Democrats said that Republicans were staging show votes as a political exercise and that the inability to agree to a budget deal stems from Republican refusal to consider higher taxes for the wealthy alongside deep spending cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) accused Republicans of developing a “case of amnesia,” forgetting the legally binding budget deal brokered last summer as they claim the Senate has no budget.
“Republicans aren’t interested in getting anything done this year – they’re more interested in trying to defeat President Obama. So they don’t mind wasting a day of the Senate’s time on useless political show votes,” he said.
The competing Republican plans also rejected in the Senate were more conservative than the Ryan plan, which Democrats say would be a death knell for Medicare and tilts heavily to the wealthy. Each would balance the budget within the next decade, making even more dramatic and immediate changes to major programs.
All three assume Medicaid would become a block grant program to the states and funding for it would be reduced. Spending for agencies would be dramatically and immediately shrunk.
Under one plan advanced by Rep. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for instance, seniors would be required to enter the health plan offered to federal employees in 2014, instead of traditional Medicare. The retirement age would rise to 70 over the next two decades.
Plans advanced by Paul and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) would also raise the retirement age for Social Security.
They each would reshape the tax code, imposing new flat taxes that would lower taxes for virtually every individual and company.
Republican sponsors of the plans, who also included Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), said the point was that they were advancing tough — even potentially unpopular — proposals to tackle the nation’s growing debt.