Mitch McConnell Doubles Down on Harry Reid

Yesterday we discussed the strategic move by Harry Reid as he prepared to call a vote on the Ryan plan in an effort to split wavering Republicans away from the pack. Rather than running from the challenge, it appears that Mitch McConnell is throwing a gauntlet of his own right back in the Majority Leader’s face.

A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) put Republicans on the spot by saying he will bring the House Republicans’ budget proposal up for a vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) turned the tables by exercising his legislative prerogative to call for a vote on President Barack Obama’s budget.

The two votes amount to legislative brinkmanship by both party leaders. Mr. Reid wants to put Republicans on record supporting legislation authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that would eventually transform Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. McConnell, meanwhile, wants to force Democrats to vote on a plan that rolls back Bush-era tax cuts for people who make more than $250,000 and ignores many of the long-term costs driving the deficit.

Some fiscal conservatives will doubtless be cheering this development, while many others are doubtless responding with a hearty, “Huh? What? The President has a budget plan?”

In any event, the intent seems clear. If Harry Reid wants to pin down every Republican senator on entitlement reform, McConnell is determined to use this procedural motion to pin down the Democrats on raising taxes. The only question is, will it work?

Pollsters have been asking this question throughout the entire budget debate, back in January and as recently as this month, and the Democrats’ “tax the rich” message still seems to be selling well in the heartland. Regardless of the economic realities on needing to encourage job growth, they don’t call it a populist message for nothing.

It’s a bold move by McConnell, and could still pay off big dividends. But the GOP has a lot of work ahead in getting the word out to voters in an easy to digest fashion. If they fail in that effort, this could still backfire on them.