Earlier this week, GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) offered the Senate Democrat budget proposal for a vote in the House. The budget plan was defeated, with 35 Democrats crossing the aisle to oppose it. Thursday night, Dem Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) responded by offering Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s budget for a vote in the Senate. The measure failed, 40-59, with 5 GOP Senators joining in opposition. Interestingly, among these 5 were Sens. Paul, Cruz and Lee.
Sens. Paul, Cruz and Lee are providing the nucleus of an emerging conservative opposition in the Senate. While there are other conservatives in the GOP caucus, these three are establishing themselves as reliable voices to articulate the conservative opposition to an ever encroaching government.
They are becoming skilled at identifying issues to make a stand on principle. I have no doubt that if their votes could have pushed the Ryan budget into passing, they would have voted for it, as it is likely the best option on the table. Frankly, however, the Ryan budget doesn’t go as far as conservatives would prefer. A vote against an amendment that was already going to be defeated was a good moment to stand on that principle.
The Ryan budget doesn’t cut real spending, but instead lowers the growth rate of spending. That is good, but unless you pull out by the roots wasteful spending and programs, they can always be expanded by a future Congress. Cutting real spending requires choices and priorities. Merely slowing the rate of spending growth keeps much of government in place.
The most important, and meaningful, proposal in Ryan’s budget is to transition Medicare into a premium support program. Seniors would be free to select the health insurance that best meets their needs and the federal Medicare program would underwrite some portion of the premiums. It curbs unsustainable entitlement spending, but, best, it gives Seniors greater choice over their health care.
Late Thursday, MI Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced an amendment that would prevent Medicare being turned into a “voucher” program, the Democrats’ label to describe the Ryan plan. The Stabenow amendment passed 96-3.
Who were the three Senators to vote against Stabenow? Sens. Paul, Cruz and Lee. Hopefully, their principled, conservative opposition will catch on with their colleagues.