In a procedural vote that represented some pretty fine political grandstanding, the Senate this evening voted down the controversial House-passed budget, 57 to 40. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled the vote to force conservative senators to go on the record in support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan — a plan opponents say will deprive seniors of adequate health care.

The vote roughly broke down along party lines, but Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rand Paul (SC), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all broke ranks and voted against consideration of the budget.

It’ll be all too easy for Democrats to criticize Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan — but, before they do, they might want to consider this advice, offered in the preamble to the president’s own fiscal commission report:

In the weeks and months to come, countless advocacy groups and special interests will try mightily through expensive, dramatic and heart-wrenching media assaults to exempt themselves from shared sacrifice and common purpose. The national interest, not special interests, must prevail. We urge leaders and citizens with principled concerns about any of our recommendations to follow what we call the Becerra Rule: Don’t shoot down an idea without offering a better idea in its place.

So, what better idea have the Democrats offered? Still none. It’s been 756 days now and that number just continues to climb. The only budget to come from the left has come from the president — and that budget doesn’t exactly address what fiscal commission co-chair Erskine Bowles has called “the most predictable economic crisis in history.” The Congressional Budget Office found that the president’s FY 2012 budget would double the nation’s debt and would never achieve an annual deficit of less than $748 billion.

Before the vote, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said it makes no sense for Democrats to go to a budget mark-up because President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden and leaders of both parties are right now in the midst of budget negotiations — but that doesn’t explain why Democrats didn’t pass a budget in 2010.

No wonder Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, grows increasingly frustrated with his Democratic colleagues on the committee and in the Senate. That frustration showed when Sessions took to the Senate floor in defense of the Ryan budget this afternoon.

“Let me just say about Congressman Ryan’s budget proposal: It does reduce spending significantly every year,” Sessions said. “It does change the debt trajectory and it does put us on the right path and, if passed, would be … better than doing nothing and absolutely better than the inexcusable budget that’s been presented by [the president].”

Freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) echoed Sessions when she spoke this afternoon.
“The Democratic majority has abdicated a basic responsibility of government by failing to pass a budget,” she said.
Reid has said he really doesn’t think Democrats need to produce a budget — but he was all too happy to stage this vote to Republicans’ detriment. The best way to foil him would be to hammer home the bald fact again and again and again: The Democrats have offered no plan of their own and the president’s plan is not really an option. Those senators who voted for the Ryan plan have to be defended as fulfilling their responsibility to the American people to the best of their ability — and the faithless few like Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) should be pressed to provide better ideas.