GOP seeks budget contrast with Obama

By David Lawder, Reuters

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senate Republicans, aiming to exploit voter unease with the trillion-dollar budget deficits racked up by President Barack Obama, plan to stage a series of symbolic votes on their own plans to cut deficits, as well as Obama’s own budget proposal. The votes, which could come as early as this week, will give Senate Republicans a chance to vote in favor of their party’s flagship spending reduction plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and endorsed by Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. The Ryan plan proposes deep cuts to social safety net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid health care for the poor, while lowering tax rates for individuals and corporations. Senior Republican aides also say they want to stage votes on plans for even deeper spending cuts proposed by three favorites of the tea party movement: Senators Pat Toomey, Mike Lee and Rand Paul. These three plans aim to balance the federal budget in eight years or less — something Ryan’s plan does not achieve for decades — with even steeper cuts to social, retirement and health programs and domestic discretionary spending. Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, also will offer up Obama’s budget plan for a vote, a move allowed under arcane budgeting procedural rules. Democrats are likely to reject the move as a stunt, but it puts them in the uncomfortable position of voting against a budget penned by Obama that contains many of the principles on which they are campaigning for re-election. All of the non-binding budget proposals are expected to be defeated. “It’s a chance for Republicans to lay out a solution to our fiscal challenges, while having a dialogue about the president’s budget,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sessions. “If last year is any indication, Senate Democrats will not cast a vote in favor of a single plan while offering none of their own.” Budget Already in Place: Democrats The votes are being planned despite the decision by Democrats who control the Senate to not bring up their own budget resolution for the third time in three years.

Democrats have argued that last year’s Budget Control Act, which was passed to stave off a U.S. default over the debt limit, made a budget resolution irrelevant, because it specifies discretionary spending levels for fiscal 2013 and carries the force of law.