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RS

FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

Funny, funny lines from the Senate’s budget follies.

Pick which one you like best! I can’t decide.

Senate Democrats say they will soon pass their first budget in four years, but it is proving a test.

You can tell, right from the start, that the Hill itself will believe that Senate Democrats will pass a budget when the Hill actually sees one.

Senate Democrats are tired of the GOP taunts over their failure to pass a budget since 2009 — it is one of Congress’s primary duties — and are determined to get a 10-year measure through the Senate before the Easter recess starts on March 22.

First off: the Hill is also not very sympathetic to the woes of the Democratic party, huh? I should also note that I suspect that, as matters previously stood, Senate Democrats would have borne up under the taunts for some time longer. But credibly threaten to dock their pay, and all of a sudden the Senate springs into action!

…I weep for the Republic.

In the last Congress, [Mark] Warner wanted to lock cuts to Medicare and Social Security into a budget. He opposes cuts to the military, which is [Bernie] Sanders’s principal target. [Chair Patty] Murray must somehow win over both sides.

On a substantive note: Mark Warner is up for re-election in 2014, and he seems to be taking no chances; then again, so are most of the other up-in-’14 Senators mentioned by name in the Hill article. The major exception there is Mary Landrieu, who may just be taking the sensible position that she’s going to be looking for more work in ’17 anyway, so she might as well start getting those liberal credentials burnished. At any rate, Bernie Sanders’ dream to defund the troops is probably going to get the short end of the stick, largely thanks to… Barack Obama’s sequester, which has already defunded the troops sufficiently* that voters are going to be skittish about doing more of that.

Reconciling the Senate and House budgets will be close to impossible. Ryan promises his will achieve balance in 10 years, while Senate Democrats include no date certain but say their budget would put the nation on a sustainable path.

Translation: the GOP has, yet again, offered a plan; the Democrats still don’t like ours, but they’re realizing that individual House/Senate elections generally don’t give a tinker’s dam about national vote totals or opinion trends – so the Democrats had better come up with a plan pretty darn quick. Or something that looks like one, if you squint hard enough.

All in all, the basic problem is this: the Democrats’ impulse here is critically flawed by one major, insurmountable problem: they have spent the last half century growing government, secure in the knowledge that the economy was growing large enough to tolerate that. This is a fine strategy, in fact… up to the point where the economy stops growing. Put another way, the Democrats assumed that the pie was just going to grow indefinitely… and now that it’s not, the discussion over who gets what piece of the pie suddenly becomes very, very important. Particularly since the Republicans largely do not care which batch of civil servants gets the smaller pieces of pie, and would in fact prefer that as many of them as possible get no pie at all.

Whether this is a fortunate or unfortunate side effect of having the civil service lean significantly towards one political party depends, I suppose, on your own political affiliation: I personally think that it’s hysterical.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*We shall now wait as those with the unenviable… impulse… to defend the President on such things stop spluttering.

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