Friday, April 15, 2011

Time For the People's Budget

Today was a lively day in the first real volley over the budget. While the Medicare/Medicaid killing Ryan budget passed the House, even without one Democratic vote, the Democrats pulled a nice piece of parliamentary trickery from their hats and nearly made the House Republican caucus implode, forcing them to disavow a budget that many of them had publicly said they supported.

From the Huffington Post:

House Democrats showed Friday that they, too, have it in them to pull the kinds of parliamentary tricks on the House floor that Republicans mastered when they were the minority.

During a series of votes on alternative budget proposals, Democrats made a play to sucker GOP lawmakers into passing a proposal from the conservative Republican Study Committee that calls for dramatic cuts that even some GOP Members would find too drastic. 

At one point during the vote, a majority of Republicans were on record in favor of the RSC budget. Democrats then began casting votes as “present,” rather than “no,” as they would be expected to do. Without the Democratic "no" votes, the amendment would be adopted and would supersede Budget ranking member Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ballyhooed budget.

After time for the vote expired, Republicans held it open so that enough of them could switch their votes to prevent the RSC budget from passing.

In the end, only 119 of the 176 RSC Members voted for their own budget proposal, authored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.). Because so many Democrats voted "present," meanwhile, the final tally was 136-119 against – a bizarre total in a chamber with 435 members. Had nine Republicans not switched sides, the measure would've passed. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) switched her vote from "aye" to "no" at the last minute, as did Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.

A total of 172 Democrats ended up voting "present" instead of "no."

Amid the voting chaos, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) tweeted, “Dems voting present on RSC budget to highlight GOP divisions, plans to end Medicare - which bdgt does GOP support?”

So far, The People's Budget, introduced by the Progressive Caucus is still flying under the radar, and whether it will have the chance to come to the fore remains to be seen, but there has been some coverage of it in the Internet. Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation has highlighted the progressive budget in her blog:

An alternative approach that deserves more attention is the “People’s Budget” offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). It will be introduced in the House on Thursday and it is the strongest rebuke—in the form of an amendment—to the unconscionable “Ryan Budget” for FY 2012. It’s a budget that gives the people—according to poll after poll—exactly what they want (something which shouldn’t be a rarity in a healthy, vibrant democracy). 

The People’s Budget lays out what a robust progressive agenda looks like. It protects an already frayed social net and promotes a progressive tax policy that makes millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations pay their fair share. It doesn’t stop at cutting the low-hanging fruit at the Pentagon, instead it brings our troops home from two wars that cost trillions of dollars and do nothing to make the US safer, and resets and rethinks what real security means in the 21st century.

“The People’s Budget generates a government surplus by 2021 by closing tax loopholes, ending corporate giveaways to oil, gas and nuclear entities, bringing our troops home, and creating jobs that expand the American tax base,” said Representative Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the CPC. “This is a sensible solution that listens to what the American people have said about where our budget priorities should be.”

So, while the political theatrics were amusing today, if Progressive support the People's Budget, we need to make our voices heard loud and clear.

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