Senate Democrats on Friday killed a proposal to drastically cut federal spending and require a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as part of a deal to raise the massive debt ceiling.
The vote to table the Cut, Cap and Balance Act passed 51 to 46 on a party-line vote, with three senators absent: John McCain (R.-Ariz.), John Kerry (D.-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.).
“The Democrats failure to produce a budget in over 800 days is exhibit number one as to why we need a balanced budget amendment,” said Sen. John Thune (R.-S.D.). “We’ve got to put something on the book to impose discipline on this Congress,” Thune said.
We ought to be embarrassed. Here in D.C., we are not doing the people’s work,” Thune said.
The proposal, backed by Tea Party Republicans, passed the House earlier this week 234 to 190, mostly along party lines.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid strongly opposed the measure, and at first threatened to force a weekend session and bring Senators back to work on Saturday. But the leader changed his mind and instead scheduled a vote to kill the Republican bill without allowing any debate on its merit.
“The future of America is at stake, and this majority leader is not allowing us to deal with it,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R.–Ind.).
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) said the Congress would be treating the Constitution like a “blog entry” if it were amended to require a balanced budget.
“This bill is an affront to the Constitution we are sworn to protect and defend,” Leahy said. “I’m going to stand with the Founders and defend their work.”
Rather than amending the Constitution, Leahy said, senators should do their job and pass a balanced budget, like the one he voted for during President Clinton’s last year in office.
“This was not a gimmick, but a real balanced budget. We had to make tough choices,” Leahy said.
During that period, Republicans controlled the Senate. Democrats currently have control of the Senate and have not produced a budget plan.
“Reid said it would be foolish to have a budget for Democrats to reveal where they stood,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. “It would have showed how much in taxes they wanted to increase, and very little spending cuts.”
Congress has just more than a week left to reach agreement on a plan to raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline, when the U.S. will default on its obligations.
With the defeat of the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, that leaves a fallback plan by Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) which the Senate has not debated, and the Gang of Six plan, which came too late this week to go through procedures such as scoring by the Congressional Budget Office. “I believe this is a colossal failure of the Senate to deal with the most important issue of our time,” Sessions told HUMAN EVENTS after the vote.
“Democrats have systematically and deliberately utilized the normal process of Congress to avoid being held accountable for their big government agenda,” Sessions said.
With time running out, Sessions predicted that a last-minute deal between House Republican Leader John Boehner and President Obama would be passed on the eve of the deadline “in a panic,” with little time to consider all the tax or cut implications.
“It will be a coin-toss at the end,” Sessions said.
“I feel what is likely to happen is a short-term deal, yet the President and Boehner are talking about a bigger deal. But they better be careful, because bigger deals take more care,” Sessions said.
Republicans aren’t the only ones feeling cut out of the negotiating process. “A number of Democrats have expressed frustration at these secret meetings, and that a bill might drop at any time, I think that’s a legitimate concern,” Sessions said.
“Democrats are so frustrated, they’ve started using my rhetoric,” Sessions said.