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GOP budget votes likely to hurt party

WASHINGTON – In a meaningful but understated way, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said a few days ago that he would call votes on the budget to attach Velcro tags to next year’s Republican Senate candidates.

The New York Democrat told reporters: “We want to make certain the budget is an opportunity to say which side you’re on.”

It may never be known whether Schumer knew at the time that his Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, would announce he is leaving the Senate at the end of next year. Reid’s pending departure is widely believed to result from a serious eye injury, but he is denying that, according to the announcement Reid made in the middle of the night Friday to the New York Times.

Reid reportedly endorsed Schumer, third in Senate leadership, as his successor. This is a strong indicator Schumer badly wants the job. But the vote will come after the 2016 election, and well after Reid has let go of the reins. Schumer may have strong competition, and several new Democrats in the ranks.

On the recent budget votes, no ink-blot test exists that would show how the Republicans, heady after reclaiming the Senate majority in 2014, managed to cast such a series of careless and dangerous tallies.

Their majority could be brief. In 2016, more than twice as many Republicans face re-election as Democrats. At least eight of the two-dozen facing the voters are in vulnerable states.

And the Republicans, either looking for money, tea party fanatics or both, cast a number of stupid, pointless votes in the last two weeks. Meaningless, because the budget is purely advisory. What counts are the appropriations bills passed later on.

The most colossal and calloused blunder in the Republican budget is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Contemptible because the GOP is not even close to creating, much less passing, any legislation to replace it. The Republicans’ failure to craft a replacement, even in their repeated acts of trying to repeal it, casts a very dark reflection on their ability to govern.

Polls show strong opposition to the law among Republicans and independents, but hostility is narrowing. Democrats are strongly in favor. The government says 16.4 million non-senior adults have gained health insurance and care since the ACA became law five years ago, cutting the ranks among the uninsured by a third.

It’s as though the tidal wave of more than a billion of untraceable campaign money loosed by the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling would cast a pall over the voter like Rip Van Winkle.

Here are some other budget votes the GOP wants us to forget:

• The tired old plan to replace Medicare – which works brilliantly – with a voucher system, allowing the 50-year-old program to wither on the vine.

• The votes of three GOP potential presidential hopefuls – Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida – to leave the Senate open to a rule allowing cuts in the old-age program Social Security by a simple majority vote, instead of a 60-member supermajority.

• Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., charged that the GOP budget attempts to starve to death the Dodd-Frank banking and financial reform law by cutting back on funds for enforcement.

The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity reported a dozen GOP presidential hopefuls, including Graham, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, mingled with leaders of the New York Times, Fox News and major fundraisers at a secretive meeting on Sea Island, Ga., hosted by the right-wing American Enterprise Institute March 5 to 8.