StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Conrad-Gregg Budget Commission Defeat Was A Deficit Smackdown

26 Jan 2010
Posted by Stan Collender

What does the 53-46 vote mean for the prospects of deficit reduction?

The short answer is nothing good.

That doesn't mean that the prospects would have been much better had the amendment been adopted and the commission created.  It just means we now have a pretty good indication of what the politics of deficit reduction is at the moment.

And it's ugly.

Although some will try to make a big deal about the fact that the amendment received 53 out of 99 votes and, therefore, got a majority, that argument doesn't really fly in a world where the U.S. needs 60 votes to do almost anything and less than a super majority gets you nothing.  This is especially the case on budget issues.   You can say that Conrad and Gregg made a good effort.  But the amendment was defeated.

The defeat was absolutely bipartisan: 22 Democrats plus Independent Bernie Sanders (VT) and 23 Republicans voted against it.  Here's the list of the nays from The Library of Congress' Thomas:


NAYs ---46
Akaka (D-HI)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bennett (R-UT)
Brown (D-OH)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Burris (D-IL)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Casey (D-PA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dodd (D-CT)
Ensign (R-NV)
Grassley (R-IA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kirk (D-MA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Thune (R-SD)
Udall (D-NM)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Not Voting - 1
Murkowski (R-AK) 

That's about as broad an ideological and geographic distribution as you get these days on any issue and it basically says everything you need to know about how important deficit reduction is in Washington: It's just or still not as politically important as preventing a tax increase or a Medicare cut.

What happens now? 

Although they've pledged to keep trying, Conrad-Gregg is dead for the rest of this year.

The president likely will appoint a budget commission of his own, but given the opposition to it expressed by Conrad, Gregg, and others, it's not at all clear what it will be able to do.  It would not be surprising, for example, if GOP congressional leaders refused to name any of the Republican representatives and senators the administration's proposal supposedly will give them the authority to appoint.  That would stop the commission dead in its tracks.

Most importantly, we now know for sure that, without an economic or financial crisis that  changes budget politics, the deficit is a clear problem but not yet the issue it needs to be for Congress to deal with it .

Stan, You make a big deal


You make a big deal out of the "bipartisan" "broad ideological" composition of the 45 "no" votes. First of all, to state the obvious, the composition of the 53 "yes" votes was also very bipartisan. Second, what exactly is your point -- that the prospects for 60 votes in the future would be greater if all/most of the 45 were on one side of the ideological spectrum (and we needed to move the public in one ideological direction) than it is because the 45 consisted of the two ideological extremes (and we need to move the public to accept some degree of compromise as the only realistic alternative to continuing along the path to disaster)? Why should we have that assumption?

My guess is that, if the "no" votes were all on one side you'd write the same post, but just change it to refer to the insurmountable ideological divide (if I may mix metaphors).

At least I'm proud of my own two senators...

I'd like to point out that Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner (both Ds and both of Virginia) were the only two senators who both voted for the commission AND did NOT support (by abstaining from the vote on) the Baucus (D) "hands off my Social Security" amendment--which in my mind makes as much sense as Senator McConnell (R) backing off supporting the commission because he "just realized" it puts taxes on the table. Much of the "bipartisan" opposition to the commission is not opposition to the process, but an unwillingness of each side to compromise with the other or to simply admit to the American people that any tough choices (tax increases or benefit cuts) will have to be made.

What Kind of Game is This

20 Republican Senators co-sponsored this legislation. Of those 20, 7 voted AGAINST it and one did not vote at all. The bill was defeated by 7 votes. If the Republican Senators had voted for the bill they co-sponsored - it would have passed. What kind of a game is this? Why co-sponsor a bill and then vote against it? For the record, the 8 co-sponsors not voting for this bill were: Bennett (R-UT), Brownback (R-KS), Crapo (R-ID), Ensign (R-NV), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R, OK),McCain (R-AZ) and Murkowski (R-AK). BTW, all the Democratic co-sponsors voted for the bill.

At what point did the

At what point did the Republicans stop being co-sponsors; none of the names mentioned above are currently being carried by Thomas as such.

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