Where Do Recent Budget Votes Leave Us?

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The Senate yesterday voted 57-40 to reject the 2012 budget adopted in the House that included House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to overhaul Medicare, which has been harshly criticized by Democrats. Five Republicans joined a united Democratic caucus to soundly defeat the bill. Then, moments later, the Senate voted 97-0 against the Obama Administration’s proposed budget, with both Democrats and Republicans arguing the Obama plan did not go far enough to tackle the nation’s twin debt and deficit challenges.

Where does that leave us? Will both sides go back to the drawing board? Will Republicans now jettison Ryan’s Medicare plan? Will Democrats make concrete proposals to reform entitlements? Will the parties try to reach some band-aid agreement that puts the problem squarely in front of the American people in the 2012 election?

One of the few remaining hopes for reaching a bipartisan compromise lies with negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden. However, Democrats emboldened by the party’s victory in a special election to fill a New York House seat this week in which Medicare featured prominently are unlikely to make major concessions to Republicans demanding wholesale Medicare changes. And Republicans have shown no willingness to compromise on Democrat demands that tax increases be part of any package.

The entire issue must come to a head prior to the first week in August, which is when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the federal government will exhaust the “extraordinary measures” currently being undertaken to prevent the government from defaulting on its debt.

One thing is for sure: it will be an interesting summer in Washington.

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