A Guide to Recognizing Your Budget Stunts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 29 2012 11:52 AM

A Guide to Recognizing Your Budget Stunts

Grab on to something. Steady yourself. Today, the House of Representatives will pass the Ryan budget. The number to remember is "4." That was how many Republicans voted against Ryan's 2011 budget, when Republicans were riding higher. And two of the "nos" came from Republicans who thought the bill was too soft: Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina. One "no" came from Montana U.S. Senate candidate Denny Rehberg, and one came from West Virginia freshman David McKinley, who has to answer to a huge population of seniors. If the Ryan budget gets more than four "nos," it'll say that Republicans are more trepidatious about selling Medicare voucherization in a general election.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

But it'll pass, and it'll pass after two budget stunts failed miserably. Those stunts:

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- Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who defeated Budget chairman John Spratt for his seat, introduced an amendment consisting of the numbers and appropriations of Barack Obama's 2012 budget. "It’s not a gimmick unless what the President sent us is the same," Mulvaney snarked. "We are voting on the President’s budget. I would encourage the Democrats to embrace this landmark Democrat document and support it." (Calling a Democratic effort a "Democrat" effort is a minor swipe.)

The amendment went down 414-0, just like an identical Republican stunt in 2011 led to a unanimous defeat of an "Obama's budget" parody. "It was a caricature of the president's budget," explained Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday, "so we voted against it."

- Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, two of the last members you could really describe as moderates, collaborated on a zombie version of the Simpson-Bowles budget. Damian Paletta reports that pressure groups "appeared to be so alarmed that the budget resolution might gain momentum Wednesday night that they issued sharp news releases hours before the vote warning members not to compromise." But it wasn't clear whether they were afraid of momentum -- it was quite tough to break through the news cycle -- or whether they just wanted to set these guys right. Sixteen Republicans voted for the amendment, many of them takers of the Norquist pledge. All in all only 38 members voted for the amendment.

Once it was shot through the head, the zombie bill took on a sort of dignity.

"What does [defeat] say about the current state of American politics?" asked NBC's Luke Russert at Speaker John Boehner's weekly presser today.

"It says it's pretty divided," said Boehner.

Reporters spontaneously broke out into laughter. Anyway, Cooper and LaTourette had been baking a cake without half the ingredients. "They were doing it in the middle of a pretty heated philosophical debate about what's the best way forward."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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