Budget Battles Are Preview of Midterm Campaigns

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 21 2013 5:07 PM

Budget Battles in Washington Preview the Arguments of the 2014 Congressional Campaign

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Rep. Paul Ryan's budget shows it's technically possible to balance the budget within a decade without raising taxes, as long as you're willing to cut lots of spending

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The budget battle going on in Washington today and all this week appears to be mostly just a big exercise in creating ammunition for the 2014 midterm elections. Each side wants to be able to criticize the other for their views. Democrats will say Republicans want to cut the social safety net, Republicans will say Democrats want to raise taxes. That’s why the news that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget passed the House today serves mostly to illustrate how the "House and Senate budget plans are anchored on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in Washington," as the Associated Press notes.

Given all the rhetoric and hot air coming out of Washington “You'd be forgiven if you thought lives or at least jobs or even government funding were on the line,” points out NPR’s Tamara Keith. But really it’s about being able to hold something against your opponent come campaign time. Case in point, the Republican National Committee is already running web ads.

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So it’s precisely in that spirit that Senate Democrats will force a vote on the Ryan budget. Senate Democrats say that while their Republican colleagues praised Ryan’s budget they never introduced a version of it to the Senate. “We welcome the contrast with the Ryan budget,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said. Yet a Republican aide insists to Politico that their side would have presented Ryan’s budget if Democrats decide against it.

At least some Republican lawmakers appear a tad nervous about supporting a plan that repeals Obamacare and overhauls Medicare. Two vulnerable Republicans decided to vote against the bill even though the GOP conference was told to vote in favor, reports the Hill. Some in the GOP are nervous as well as more people within the party wonder whether they have taken the relentless focus on austerity too far,” writes the Washington Post’s Chris CIllizza. “For politicians with their eyes on bigger prizes than simply winning reelection to a House seat ... pledging fealty to austerity over all other priorities may well be a very limiting proposition.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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