Budget kabuki theater week in Congress

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

KabukiThis past week was budget kabuki theater week in Congress. The important thing to remember is that none of this really matters, these are non-binding resolutions that are just an ante in the real budget negotiations to follow.

In the House, Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to America's Ruin" 2.0 budget (H.Con.Res.25) just barely passed with 221 Republican votes to 207 votes against, including 10 House Republicans who voted against Ryan budget (Those voting against the budget this year were: Reps. Justin Amash
(Mich.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Rick Crawford (Ark.), Randy Forbes (Va.),
Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Walter Jones
(N.C.), Tom Massie (Ky.) and David McKinley (W.Va.).)

(Arizona's congressional delegation split along party lines).

Don't get too excited, these are the far-right extremists from the House Republican Study Committee who thought that Rep. Paul Ryan was not being draconian enough with his budget ax and proposed their own radical budget. It was offered as an amendment to the GOP budget and was rejected by a vote of 104 for and 132 against (lots of "not voting" on this one).

Arizona Republicans Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon, David Schweikert and Trent Franks voted for the House Republican Study Committee budget (as well as Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget). Arizona Democrats Ron Barber, Ed Pastor, and Kirsten Sinema voted against it, with Ann Kirkpatrick and Raul Grijalva not voting.

The Progressive Caucus "Back to Work" Budget was voted on as an alternative to the GOP budget. The "Back to Work" budget was rejected by a vote of 84 for and and 327 against (note: that number reflects the number of members in the Progressive Caucus; non-member Democrats voted against it in favor of the Democratic leadership budget).  Arizona Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor voted for it, but Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kirsten Sinema voted against it, as did Arizona's Republicans.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Budget suffered a similar fate. The CBC budget was rejected by a vote of 105 for and 305 against. Once again, Arizona Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor voted for it, but
Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kirsten Sinema voted against
it, as did Arizona's Republicans.

The Democratic leadership budget was crafted in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The Democratic leadership budget was rejected by a vote of 165 for and 253 against. Once again, Arizona Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor voted for it, but
Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kirsten Sinema voted against
it
, as did Arizona's Republicans.

So — Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kirsten Sinema did not vote in favor of any budget proposal. Like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, they need to find some courage. Since none of these votes really mattered, they could have voted in favor of something — instead they stand for nothing, except perhaps "just say no" or "cover your ass (CYA)."

In the Senate, after a prolonged "vote-a-rama" of more than 400 amendments, the Democratic leadership budget (SCR 8) crafted in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) just barely passed with 50 votes for and 49 votes against. Four "red state" conservadem Democrats facing reelection joined every Republican in voting against the Democratic leadership budget: Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate rejected Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to America's Ruin" 2.0 budget with 40 votes for and 59 against. GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah),
Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) voted with Democrats against Ryan's
plan. Senate rejects Ryan's budget on 40-59 vote. with the exception of Sen. Collins, these are Tea Party Republicans who believe that Rep. Paul Ryan was not being draconian enough with his budget ax.

Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake predictably voted along party lines.

So where do things stand now? Steve Benen discusses what to expect from here on out in Boehner subtly gives the game away:

Republicans have been told, repeatedly, that if they expect to get
entitlement "reforms," they're going to have to give a little and reach
an agreement with Democrats. But GOP officials have consistently
rejected the premise, not because they consider entitlement cuts
impossible, but because they had a Plan B.

The back-up option, of
course, is the debt ceiling
. In effect, the Republican strategy, though
unstated, has been made quite clear: "To get entitlement cuts, we don't
need to accept new revenue, we simply need to hold the country hostage
again and threaten to hurt Americans on purpose. Democrats will have no
choice but to give us what we want, and we won't have to accept any
concessions at all."

Over the last week or so, this strategy has
begun to take shape in earnest. It's not yet clear exactly when the debt
ceiling will need to be raised — estimates vary from May to July —
but Republicans are becoming increasingly explicit
in their threats. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued
on Fox Business last night that he expects a debt-ceiling increase to
be tied to entitlement cuts, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
said the same thing to reporters yesterday.

"Dollar for dollar is the plan,"
Boehner said, suggesting for every dollar the debt limit is raised, he
expects a comparable amount of cuts to social-insurance programs. How'd
he come up with this standard? Arbitrarily and for no particular reason.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

But if you watch the above clip, pay particular attention to the last few seconds. Boehner demands that we need to eliminate the deficit within 10 years — why he thinks this is still a mystery — and insists that he will not accept so much as a penny in new tax revenue.

And then he says something else: "I'm not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal government."

Those are the 14 most important words Boehner has said in a long while.

Look, it's clear congressional Republicans are eager to launch another crisis.
The government shutdown option was taken off the table early on, but a
debt-ceiling hostage strategy is a crisis GOP members find frighteningly
appealing. They know how damaging the debate is, they know even having
the conversation does real harm to the economy, and they see all of this
as a plus — if you rough up the hostages before threatening to pull
the trigger, your threats are more likely to be taken seriously.

* * *

But that's why it matters that Boehner has already given the game
away: "I'm not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal
government."

Unless the Speaker changes his mind, that's pretty much the game-over moment.

In
order for Republican threats to work, everyone, including the White
House, has to seriously believe that GOP lawmakers are not bluffing.
When it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans need everyone
to be terrified — maybe, the argument goes, they'll default on American
debts, they'll refuse to pay for the things they've already bought, and
they'll ignore their constitutional obligations and trash the full
faith and credit of the United States.

Except John Boehner, ostensibly the most powerful Republican official in the country, just said on camera that he's not going to do this, which necessarily means he can't shoot the hostage.

When the debt-ceiling issue came up in January, Republicans all but admitted
they were bluffing and weren't actually going to allow the nation to
default. As of yesterday, Boehner largely admitted it again.

Let's
make this plain: if the House Speaker isn't going to risk the full
faith and credit of the federal government, then Democrats have no
incentive to pay his ridiculous ransom. It's as simple as that.

So the Tea-Publican economic terrorists are going to take the country hostage, yet again, in another manufactured crisis over the federal debt ceiling. But it is all kabuki theater if the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, is not really willing to shoot the hostages. The debt ceiling will be included in the federal budget yet to be negotiated.

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