Democratic Maneuvering Exposes House GOP Budget Divide

BY Terence Burlij  April 15, 2011 at 1:31 PM EDT

Republicans averted an embarrassing loss on their preferred budget proposal Friday after Democrats employed a procedural tactic hoping to expose divisions between House conservatives and their leaders.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Friday morning that he expected “a resounding vote” in support of the 2012 Republican budget proposal offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Whether members would even get to vote on the Ryan blueprint was momentarily in doubt about an hour later, as Republicans nearly replaced the Ryan budget with an alternative put forward by the Republican Study Committee.

The RSC budget, which cuts spending by even more than Ryan’s $5.8 trillion over the next decade, would also enact sweeping reforms of Medicare and Medicaid.

The sponsor of the RSC amendment, Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., said it “builds upon the great work” of Ryan’s budget.

“We know that what we are proposing will not be easy. Why? Because real solutions are not necessarily easy solutions,” Rep. Garrett said. “But given the dangerous conditions of our nation’s fiscal situation, we must recognize that tough choices must be made and must be made now.”

“If the Republican budget is a doubling down on the policies that brought us to the brink,” responded Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., “my brother from New Jersey presents a budget which I think quadruples down on the economic policies and lack of optimism in the American people.”

As the vote on the RSC substitute neared a conclusion, Democratic lawmakers who had voted no began switching their votes to present, a maneuver to force Republicans to choose between the competing plans.

At the time, a majority of Republicans had recorded votes in favor of the RSC budget. Had that held, the RSC plan would have supplanted Ryan’s as the GOP’s 2012 budget proposal.

Realizing the potential consequences of blocking their favored budget plan from moving forward, a handful of Republican lawmakers switched their votes from “Yea” to “Nay” to defeat the RSC alternative.

The final tally was 119 yeas and 136 nays, with 172 members voting present, clearing the way for House Republicans to bring the Ryan budget up for a vote as planned later Friday.