House Republicans’ budget plan defeated in the Senate

The Senate roundly rejected the House GOP budget on Wednesday, with five Republicans joining most Democrats in shooting down the proposal to dramatically alter Medicare that has rattled the Republican Party.

The 40-57 vote essentially ends the legislative hopes for the fiscal blueprint drafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman.

But the plan is likely to find a second life well into the 2012 election, defining policy differences between the two parties.

“Their Republican, radical proposal would end Medicare as we know it,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the party’s campaign committee. “We’re not going to stop talking about this in states across the country.”

Republicans have tried to turn the spotlight on Democrats’ failure to develop a budget of their own – saying they’ve gone more than two years without a fiscal roadmap from the Senate majority.

“What’s sort of getting lost in this is that they have failed to do their statutory duty,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

Republicans also insisted on a vote to advance President Obama’s fiscal 2012 blueprint, a political maneuver to put Democrats on record over its call for tax hikes. Obama’s budget also failed.

The nation’s record deficits have gripped Washington at a time of intensified voter concern over the debt load, putting budget battles at the center of political debate.

The GOP budget would have cut nearly $6 trillion over the next decade and revamp Medicare by giving the next generation of seniors a set amount of money to buy health insurance policies on the private market rather than guaranteeing health coverage.

Republicans voting against proceeding to the GOP proposal had raised concerns about the Medicare reform or other provisions -- Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said the proposal did not make steep enough cuts.

All Democrats present voted against it.

Obama’s budget calls for an end to the tax breaks for upper-income households, reinstating a higher tax bracket for households earning beyond $250,000 annually as was the case before the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

Moderate Democrats, especially those facing tough re-election campaigns in 2012, have resisted tax hikes.

Obama’s budget was even more dramatically defeated, 0-97, with all senators present, Democrats and Republicans, opposed.

The president has largely moved away from his initial budget to a new fiscal outline, which also proposes deeper budget cuts but also calls for tax hikes on the wealthy.

Two other votes on Republican budgets put forward by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), also failed to advance.