Allentown Morning Call
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday on a series of Republican-sponsored budget proposals, including one written by Pennsylvania freshman Sen. Pat Toomey and one modeled after the Obama White House’s request.
The measures lacked the support of the Democrats who control the Senate, and were mostly for show.
The Republicans have blasted the Democrats for not producing a budget, and the Democrats say the Republicans are showboating.
In the midst of a six-hour back and forth on the U.S. Senate floor, Toomey headlined a Capitol Hill news conference, warning that the nation’s deficit is a “full-blown crisis” and calling on Democrats to work with Republicans to “actually accomplish something.”
“There is one party that is seriously addressing these problems with specific reform ideas and a specific vision for how to get on a sustainable fiscal path … and there’s another party that absolutely refuses to say anything about what their vision is, what they intend to do,” Toomey said. “It is nothing less than shocking to me.”
“People say, ‘Compromise, compromise. Be a moderate’,” Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said at the news conference. “How do you find middle ground with a party that doesn’t have a plan?”
So-called “budget resolutions” typically set the funding levels for the year. But Senate Democrats say because of a compromise last August to raise the debt limit and set spending caps for the year, a budget resolution is unnecessary. Republicans say one is needed to address long-term fiscal problems.
Toomey, of Zionsville, was among a handful of Republicans — and the only local lawmaker — who voted against the 2011 debt limit bill that set the funding limits. At the time he said the deal “did not contain meaningful spending cuts, nor does it put us on a sustainable fiscal path.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said lawmakersshould find common ground on a balanced approach of cuts and revenue. Casey dismissed the Republicans’ call for Democrats to lay down their own fiscal marker.
“I think there’s no debate about the need for cuts, there’s no debate about the size of the challenge, there’s no debate that we have to take action, and there’s even no debate [about] the long menu of options there are,” Casey said. “I don’t think having dueling budget proposals in this environment … a couple months before the election, is going to advance the ball that much.”
Casey’s Republican challenger, Tom Smith, was in Washington introducing himself to Republican senators at the Capitol. Earlier this week, his campaign emailed a petition that said lawmakers didn’t deserve a paycheck until they passed a budget resolution.
Smith has generally supported the central tenets in the Republican plans that were voted on, but would not offer his endorsement on the separate budgets offered by Toomey, Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, all freshmen senators.
“In all honesty, I haven’t really had a chance to review all three of those the way they need [to be] reviewed before I could make that decision,” Smith said in an interview. “But that’s what I’m looking for, people to put forth their ideas and we can come up with something, maybe a combination of all three.”
Last month, Toomey unveiled a 10-year budget plan that would make substantial changes to Medicare and Medicaid, while aiming to balance the budget in eight years through aggressive spending cuts and broad tax reforms. It was the second year in a row he drafted his own budget blueprint.
Among the other budgets up for consideration Wednesday was one that mirrors President Barack Obama’s own plan. This tactic was used last year and was intended to embarrass the White House when it fails to pass.
The fifth plan before the Senate was a House-passed measured known as the Paul Ryan budget that, among other things, would give new senior Medicare enrollees, beginning in 2023, the choice between traditional Medicare and private plans, which proponents contend will drive competition. It’s a plan that has been firmly rejected by the Obama White House and most Democrats.
Toomey’s budget, or the motion to proceed to it, was voted down 57-42, though it received the most votes of the five considered Wednesday.