Senate Budget Wrangling

Earlier this week, I wrote about how freshmen Republicans weren't exactly knocking down the doors on the floor of the House to cut the budget. Today, we look at how the Senate isn't exactly knocking down the doors on much of anything.

While the two major political parties are duking it out verbally on a daily basis about what to cut and where to cut, the Senate floor has been operating in a separate universe for most of this year, with little in the way of legislation - or votes - on difficult budget subjects.

The beauty - or the bane of the Senate - is the open nature of the amendment process on the Senate floor, where pretty much anything goes on any subject.

It allows the minority to bring up all kinds of issues, while the majority then uses the rules to tamp down the chances for any embarrassing votes.

This year, Republicans say they haven't been given the chance to bring up votes on a variety of ways to cut the budget and spur new economic growth.

Democrats meanwhile charge the GOP only wants to block work on new bills to create jobs.

"They want to spend the Senate’s time debating an extreme social agenda that would hurt families, seniors and our economy," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"They want to end Medicare in order to pay for more millionaires’ tax breaks."

Republicans were more than happy to return the favor as the Senate returned from a 10 day break, saying it's obvious that Democrats aren't concerned about the lack of work on the budget or the debt limit.

"Republicans have proposed plans that would rein in our deficits and debt and send a clear signal to taxpayers and the world that lawmakers in Washington have the will to live within our means," said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

"The government-driven policies of the last two and a half years have clearly been a failure," he added.

As for what bill is up next on the Senate floor, Democrats want to start work on the "Economic Development Revitalization Act."

It's a bill that enjoyed bipartisan support in a Senate committee, as it would continue programs of the Economic Development Administration.

But will Democrats allow a full and open debate?

While I was on an elevator in the Capitol yesterday, a staffer got on while she was having an intense cell phone conversation with someone else about this bill.

She said the hope was to "limit the number of amendments" during consideration on the Senate floor.

We'll see if that happens - or if another piece of legislation gets tied in political knots.

So far this year, only 14 bills have become law - and most of those have been tied to extensions of the budget for the current fiscal year.

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