Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ryan budget hanging like a noose in front of GOP senators

This week, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, the US Senate will vote on the House Republican budget plan, the brain child of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.  This is the plan House Republicans put forward to address the budget deficit.  It proposes to "reform" Medicare, changing the program from guaranteed health benefits for seniors to a voucher system that allows them to shop for their own health insurance.  The plan passed the House with all but 4 Republicans (and not a single Democrat) voting in favor.

Since it passed, however, and as details of the plan have become known, public sentiment has turned overwhelmingly against it.  Regardless of how poll questions are framed, the Ryan plan pegs out with something less than 40% approval and over 50% disapproval.  Even Tea Party folks think it's a stinker.

Before the House voted on April 15th to pass the bill, their own pollsters were telling them it was a loser.  Since its passage, Republicans have faced angry constituents in town hall meetings that recall the Tea Party apoplexy ginned up by Fox News.  And today, in New York's 26th district, which, historically, is as red as Speaker Boehner's eyes at the end of a three-day bender, the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, is in an unexpectedly tough race with Democrat Kathy Hochul.  This upset-in-the-making is seen by pundits as a result of public reaction to the Ryan budget plan.

But the plan passed the House.  And now it sits in the docket of the US Senate, like a big stink bomb.  And Senator Reid gets to light the fuse and throw it into the Republican caucus conference room.

Senate Republicans are well aware of the unpopularity of the Ryan plan.  But they dare not speak out against it.  (Look what happened to Newt Gingrich just last week!)  When Reid brings the bill up for a vote, Republican Senators will be faced with a dilemma.  Vote against the bill and risk the wrath of right-wing cognoscenti, or vote for it and face opposition ads highlighting it as a vote to kill Medicare when running for reelection.  Tough spot.

Already, some Republicans are abandoning the plan.  Scott Brown (MA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have both expressed doubts about it.  Can Maine's two senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, be far behind?  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell provided proof of the rift in the Republican caucus when he made it clear that his office will not whip support for the Ryan plan when it comes to the floor. 

Well, we'll see how it comes out.  The GOP still has the inside track for winning control of the Senate in the 2012 election cycle.  But their newly-won majority in the House could be at risk.

The next move belongs to Senator Reid.

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