Stop the Presses: Senate Passes First Budget in Four Years
March 23, 2013 - 9:43 am
In truth, this isn’t a budget. It’s political theater — a three-act melodrama complete with damsels in distress, villains, and a hero to save the day.
Senators voted on more than 100 amendments. That sounds like a lot. But since the Senate budget has as much chance of passage in the House as my home movie of Zsu-Zsu giving my cats a bath has of winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, all those votes were meaningless.
Perhaps not “meaningless” in the sense that they are useless. The roll call votes will come in handy during the next campaign as fodder for attack ads. The votes were meaningless because none of the amendments will ever have the force of law.
Take the repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax, for example. The vote was bi-partisan and overwhelming: 79-20. But unless the House does the same, the tax stays. The repeal may not even make it out of the conference committee.
So there was some use to spending most of the day and night voting on amendments. Politico:
A handful of Democrats, all up for reelection next year and representing conservative states, voted against the measure: Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska). Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was absent.
Nerves started to fray about 2 a.m., with Democrats pushing to end the voting and Republicans trying to continue to consider amendments. In total, they considered 101 amendments.
The standoff brought leadership from both parties to hushed huddles on the floor as tired senators tried to intercede and speed the process.
More than an hour of negotiations ensued until a deal was struck, more than 30 amendments would be passed without a vote as a package. Another 14 amendments would be voted on beginning just after 3 a.m. to allow them to finally be able to vote on the budget.
It was then that conservatives in the Senate were finally able to move on some of their more controversial amendments. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments dealing with foreign relations in the Middle East and U.N. funding related to the legality of abortion, all of which were defeated. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered an amendment reiterating the rights in the 2nd Amendment, which was shot down after being ruled unrelated to the budget.
As part of a deal to move forward, the members agreed to remain seated and vote out loud as their names were called, an unusual event on the Senate floor.
That must have been a sight. Senators, like good little boys and girls, staying seated so that when the clerk called for the yeas and nays for each vote, they were right there. Nobody had to track them down when the roll was called.
Good deportment aside, the Senate Democrats’ budget — with its trillion dollars in new taxes and total lack of budget cuts — is as clear a statement as you want to hear about how serious they are as far as balancing the budget is concerned.