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.