Democrats nearly pulled off a budgetary coup on the House floor today, employing a parliamentary maneuver in an effort to make Republicans own the extreme budget proposals they’ve offered. The House will vote on the budget plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) later today, but first, it has been taking up some alternative measures for consideration.
The most extreme of those was the plan offered by the Republican Study Committee. The RSC budget, considered by some as a ploy to make Ryan’s look less extreme, was expected to fail, with some Republicans joining unified Democratic opposition. But instead of voting “no,” House Democrats elected to vote “present,” forcing a ruckus on the House floor that nearly led to the passage of the RSC budget. In the end, the RSC budget fell just nine votes short of passage, failing 119-136.
The Study Committee’s budget was a substitute bill, meaning that had it passed, it would have supplanted Ryan’s budget as the House budget proposal, and Republicans could not have brought the Ryan plan to the floor. Why would Democrats attempt to let Republicans pass an even more extreme budget than Ryan’s Path to the Poorhouse? House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer explained via Twitter:
Dems voting present on RSC budget to highlight GOP divisions, plans to end Medicare – which bdgt does GOP support? Ryan or Ryan on steroids?
Though Ryan’s budget has come under fire recently, some conservatives have bemoaned that it doesn’t go far enough in cutting spending. The RSC budget would have gone even farther on Medicare and spending cuts, freezing government spending at 2008 levels. And unlike Ryan’s budget, it included cuts to Social Security.
The move by Democrats highlighted the split, as the RSC budget garnered support of nearly half of the Republican caucus, including some frantic members who rushed to switch their vote from “yes” to “no” in order to ensure the budget’s failure. Even the conservative Weekly Standard said it would have been a “smart move” had it worked. And the National Review writes, “The tactic clearly flustered the GOP leadership.”
Huffington Post has video of the action on the floor:
The House will vote on Ryan’s budget later today. Democrats are expected to oppose it uniformly.