Friday, March 18, 2005

Senate Democrats Hang Tough

The Bush budget called for more tax cuts for the rich and entitlement cuts for the poor, particularly cuts to Medicaid. By razon-thin margins, both the House and the Senate passed their versions of that budget last night, but in the Senate, the defection of seven Republicans and the unanimity of the Democrats, took out the Medicaid cuts and put the House and Senate "on a collision course" (according to this morning's NYTimes).

It's a gratifying, not to mention unusual experience to look at the roll-call vote and see all the Dems hanging together on the Medicaid issue. And the names of the seven dissident Republicans are in many instances the same as those who voted against allowing oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, with some exceptions.

The Republicans who voted against slashing Medicaid:

Chafee of Rhode Island
Coleman of Minnesota
Collins of Maine
DeWine of Ohio (what liberal flu bug has he caught?)
Smith of Oregon (he actually led on this issue)
Snowe of Maine
Specter of Pennsylvania

But the Senate, with some Democratic help, also voted to approve a total of $134 billion in tax cuts, $34 billion more than President Bush requested and $64 billion more than the Senate Republican leadership had initially proposed. No truer commentary on this budget bill was ever spoken than the words of Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico: "We didn't know what we were doing."

None of this is law yet, and there's a real question whether it ever will be, given the substantive differences between House Republicans and Senate Republicans. As Sen. Domenici remarked earlier in the week, "It's a long process."

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