Nearly all Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in risky territory Wednesday by voting in support of the controversial GOP budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — a blueprint for the country’s future that has become a political lightning rod and a defining document for the 2012 elections.
Among its most contentious features, the plan would phase out the existing Medicare program and replace it with a subsidized private insurance system for seniors; dramatically slash Medicaid spending and hand the program over to the states; cut food and nutrition programs for poor people; and allow interest rates on student loans to double; all while dramatically reducing taxes, particularly on wealthy Americans.
It’s a governing agenda many Republicans would like to wash down the memory hole. But over the past year it’s become a Kryptonite touchstone for conservative purity — a plan most Republicans feel compelled to support, but which they understand to be politically deadly.
The final vote was 41-58, shy of the 51 required for passage. The Senate GOP boxed themselves in to support of the framework by overwhelmingly voting for a similar plan last year. The budget votes in 2011 proved politically disastrous for Republicans, who had misjudged the midterm election results as enthusiasm for far-right policies. It turned out to be a dramatic overreach, and Republicans have expended a great deal of effort in the months since trying to fight Democrats to a draw on Medicare and force them into voting for major cuts to that program.
But they’ve been unable to walk away from their agenda — and Democrats were thrilled to force their GOP counterparts to embrace it all over again on the Senate floor.
Republicans used the opportunity to embarrass President Obama, by proposing a rendition of his own budget — it failed on a 0-99 vote.
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT) also introduced their own, vastly more conservative budget resolutions Wednesday.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.