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Presented last month, President Barack Obama’s initial deficit reduction proposal sounded familiar to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
Targeting the same tax increases without any significant entitlement reforms, the proposal had the same tenets as Obama’s last budget, according to Ayotte, New Hampshire’s junior senator. And, unless the president comes up with something new, it’s likely to meet a similar death, she said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
"I see (the proposal) as very disappointing," Ayotte told anchor Candy Crowley during the December 2 interview.
"(We have) a big problem in this country. That's why I didn't like seeing what was essentially a re-run of his budget that couldn't get support from either party in the House or the Senate. … It is time for us to come together and solve the big problems."
Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal, introduced in February 2012 never reached the House floor for a vote. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it failed to get support from either side. We decided to take a closer look.
We must note that the president’s budget proposal does not dictate federal spending. Rather, the proposal serves as a starting point for House and Senate lawmakers as they shape their own spending plans.
Such was the case for the president’s $3.2 trillion proposal that the White House first unveiled onFeb. 13, 2012. Despite Ayotte’s claim that the budget received no support from either party in the House or Senate, Obama’s budget drew immediate praise from some leading Democrats.
"The President has put forth a budget that invests in job creation and economic growth in the short-term and gets our nation on a long-term, responsible path to fiscal sustainability," U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said at the time in a written statement.
"President Obama’s budget would continue to move the nation in the right direction," U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, added in a statement. "For the near-term, it correctly focuses on strengthening the economy and creating jobs. That is the right near-term priority."
The next month, the House Budget Committee, led by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the future vice presidential nominee, countered with its own proposal, titled The Path to Prosperity.
Before House lawmakers acted on the Ryan budget, however, Republicans called for a vote on the President’s spending plan in the form of House Amendment 999, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican.
The amendment, based on spending and revenue numbers from the president’s budget, fell in the House 244-0, and, two months later, a similar motion, Concurrent Resolution 41, failed the Senate by a 99-0 count.
Reached for comment, Ayotte’s staff referenced these two votes as support for her statement.
Republicans, both at the time and now, argue that the amendments mirrored the president’s spending plans and the votes represented an indictment of the president and his spending plan.
"It is the President's budget. It has the numbers in it that the President had. They directly reflect the President's request," U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, the primary sponsor of the amendment, said as he presented the amendment on the Senate floor.
But, then as in now, Democratic opponents, analysts and news outlets called the amendments maneuvers and stunts intended to stir up opposition to the president and his budget.
At the time, the White House called the House amendment a "gimmick," saying it intended to distract lawmakers from the damaging effects of the House Republicans’ budget, according to an article printed in The Hill.
And now, nine months later, political analysts continue to see the amendments as political stunts more than a meaningful action.
In both cases, the amendments were sponsored by Republican lawmakers who never intended them to pass, including only the final budget figures without any specific department breakdowns or tax policies, according to Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, a partnership between the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.
"It’s pure political maneuvering. Fairly simply," Williams said. "The Republicans were the ones who brought it up. You know they didn't want to pass it. They do it for pure political reasons."
Further, without the political motives, Congress, the nation’s budgeting authority, would not adopt the president’s budget in fear of losing its autonomy, according to Stuart Kasdin, an assistant professor of public policy and public administration at George Washington University.
"That would be something like saying we're no longer able to govern ourselves, we just take what the president gives us," Kasdin said. "Even if this weren't a politically charged environment, Congress would never start like that."
After the amendment vote, the House went on to approve the House Republican budget proposal, which then stalled in the Democratic-led Senate. But, with the failed amendments, Republican lawmakers came away with a good talking point regarding the president’s budget proposal heading into the fall election, analysts said.
"It’s happened in past years … and it’s never viewed as serious," said Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "
"It’s what we generally describe as votes that are designed to make some sort of a point, and then the other party always tries to avoid giving it any credibility by going along and having everybody vote it down," he said. "But it certainly doesn't mean that the people who voted against it don’t support the president’s budget."
Looking only at the votes taken on the House and Senate amendments, there’s a kernel of truth to Ayotte’s statement. Neither amendment earned a single vote from either party. However, these amendments represented only a skeleton of the president’s budget, and the sponsors offered them to score political points, not for serious consideration.
Further, Ayotte said Obama’s budget couldn’t get "support" -- she never used the word "votes." And the truth is Democrats in both the House and Senate showed plenty of support for Obama’s $3.2 trillion budget plan by praising it when it was released.
We rate Ayotte’s claim Mostly False.
CNN: State of the Union,Senators clash over proposals to avoid the fiscal cliff, December 2, 2012
Email interview with Liz Johnson, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, December 4, 2012
U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Van Hollen Statement on President Obama’s Budget Proposal, February 13, 2012
U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, Conrad Statement on President Obama’s FY 2013 Budget, February 13, 2012
U.S. House of Representatives,House Amendment 999, March 28, 2012
U.S. House of Representatives,Roll Call 143, March 28, 2012
U.S. Senate,Concurrent Resolution 41, April 17, 2012
U.S. Senate,Record Vote Number: 97, May 16, 2012
Email interview with Stephen Miller, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, December 3, 2012
Slate.com,A Guide to Recognizing Your Budget Stunts, March 29, 2012
The Hill,White House: Vote on ‘Obama’ Budget is a Republican Gimmick, March 28, 2012
Interview with Roberton Williams, senior fellow for the Tax Policy Center, December 4, 2012
Interview with Stuart Kasdin, assistant professor of public policy and public administration at George Washington University, December 4, 2012
Interview with Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, December 4, 2012
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