Facing a barrage of attacks after a version of President Obama’s budget failed 99-0 in the Senate, the White House pushed back Thursday with a simple response: Hold your horses, that wasn’t actually our budget.
The White House faced harsh criticism from conservatives and liberals after the vote on the budget, which was put forth by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and used spending targets from Obama’s budget proposal offered earlier this year. A similar bill by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) failed 414-0 in the House.
“As with the Mulvaney resolution in the House, the resolution under consideration in the Senate is not presenting a vote on the President’s budget,” a senior administration official told TPM. “This is just a gimmick the Republicans are putting forward to distract from what the Ryan-Republican budget does: protects massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while making the middle class and seniors pay.”
Republicans had been making hay of the fact that no Democratic senators voted for the putative Obama budget. “Once again, the Senate spoke unanimously against the President’s unserious budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), describing it as bad for jobs, the economy and the safety net. “For three years, Senate Democrats have refused to produce a budget, as required by law. And today, they soundly rejected the President’s budget proposal which spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much. But that’s not surprising when you consider just how bad the President’s budget is.”
The widespread mockery from conservatives, who have been hammering Democrats for failing to coalesce around a long-term fiscal vision, was to be expected. More surprising, and more biting, was the response from the United Auto Workers union, which called both that and the GOP budgets “another attack on the middle class and our most vulnerable citizens.”
The White House argued that while the broad figures in Sessions’ rendition of Obama’s budget are accurate, it lacks specificity on how they would be achieved and could permit appropriators to reach the targets in harmful ways.
“While Sessions’ amendment has all the same topline numbers as the President’s budget, he puts forward no specifics or ways about how he would reach these targets. His proposal is a shell that could be filled with a number of things that could hurt our economy and hurt the middle class,” the senior administration official said. “For example, rather than ending tax breaks for millionaires his budget could hit the revenue target by raising taxes on the middle class and rather than ending wasteful programs, his budget could hit its spending target with severe cuts to important programs.”
The assessment was backed by Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND).
“It wasn’t the President’s budget,” Conrad told TPM.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.