Sen. Harry Reid, Democrat and majority leader, tried to get his hand-picked parliamentarian to rule that the Senate could not take up any budget resolutions this year. Not even “should not,” but could not, because of last year’s spending deal. The aim was to keep the Senate from having to vote on any Republican proposals, but more important, to keep it from having to vote on the president’s latest budget. That budget lost the House in a humiliating rout, 414-0. Reid’s gambit was a way to run interference for the president and shield him from reality. But the parliamentarian would have none of that.
Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.
The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education.
The ruling elicited high fives in Republican offices, and red faces in Reid’s office. The Senate will end up having to deal with budgets and votes on those budgets — in other words, its actual job. Democrats will have to go on the record, something they are striving to avoid. How embarrassing is this defeat for Dingy Harry? Even the Puss N Boots cat noticed the burn.