We may have to take a fresh look at the old saying regarding teaching old dogs new tricks. There was a long period of time when majority leaders from either party in both the House and Senate would never call a vote on any legislation unless it was something they favored and until they knew they had properly whipped up the votes for a win. Message control dictated that you simply wouldn’t set yourself up for a loss on the floor. Not any more. Word on the street is that Harry Reid will call for a vote on Paul Ryan’s budget plan even though he’s fairly certain it will fail.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will hold a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget in an effort to divide the Senate GOP conference.
Reid said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that he would hold a vote, saying it would give the Senate GOP an opportunity to say where it stands.
“Republicans seem to be in love with the Ryan budget. And so they are going to have an opportunity here in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget and see [how many] Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as their House colleagues did,” he said.
The Democrats are betting heavily that Americans are not ready to accept serious changes to entitlement programs and that their “tax the rich” message will still sell well enough across the country to gain electoral advantage next year. Reid seems to feel confident that a significant number of Republicans are talking a good game about the Ryan plan, but will not put their vote on the line in favor of a major change to entitlements if they’re facing a dicey reelection back home. If the ploy works, he walks away with a new talking point about how he split the Republican team. If the GOP stands firm, the measure still likely fails to the Democratic majority and they get a new ad to run against their opponents in swing states.
This isn’t the first time this type of trick has been rolled out. Earlier this month the House Democrats pulled a surprise move when a vote was held on a package of spending cuts even more severe than the original Republican proposal. While the vote was in progress, Democrats stepped up in mass changing their votes from “no” to “present” and forced a significant number of GOP members to switch their votes from yes to no to prevent the measure from passing.
How well will this work? If the latest Gallup poll results are any indicator, both parties are rolling the dice to a certain extent. Neither Obama nor Ryan muster majority support, with the President taking a statistically insignificant 44-43 lead. But the shocker in those numbers is that the group most supportive of Ryan’s proposals are seniors, the group Democrats are counting on the most to oppose entitlement reform. There’s plenty of room for both sides to maneuver here.
If this voting tactic proves effective, expect to see more tricks like this in the future. And look for members on both sides to be a bit more careful about their public statements if they may be put in a position where they might have to vote against their own proposals.