You would have thought that starting the day with a vote permitting the use of calculators on the Senate floor today was a good sign that it could potentially be a productive day for the U.S. senators.
But you would have been mistaken.
The Senate spent the whole day today, with over six hours of straight floor speeches, debating five nonbinding budget resolutions that everyone knew in advance would not pass.
And, no surprise, none of them passed. Not by a mile.
For Republicans, it was about making a point that the Democrat-led Senate has not produced a budget. So they brought five of their own budget proposals to the floor to offer a direct comparison.
"If you're looking for a simple three-word description of the Democrats' approach to the problems we face, it's this: duck and cover," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., said today on the floor of the Senate. "By the end of the day, we'll know whether there is a budget that Washington Democrats support, and the American people will know without a doubt who is voting for solutions in this town and who isn't. They will know who has got a plan to fix the mess we're in and who doesn't."
Senate Democrats cast the day as a display "to waste a day with political show votes on stunt budgets." Democrats say they already have a legally-binding budget, the Budget Control Act, that is sufficient.
"They don't mind wasting a day of the Senate's time on useless political showboats. Republicans can say over and over they are only forcing votes on Republican budgets today because Democrats failed to pass their own budget. That couldn't be further from the truth," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV., rebutted today. "In August, Congress passed and President Obama signed a budget that reduces the deficit by more than $2 trillion …. 28 Republican senators, including my friend, the Minority Leader, voted for the last legally binding budget."
Five versions of the Republicans' proposals were voted on, all far from passing in the Democratically controlled Senate.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., based his proposal on an interpretation of President Obama's budget, which failed badly, not receiving a single vote at 0-99. Republicans immediately jumped on this as a unanimous rejection to the president's own budget.
And the House of Representatives' Paul Ryan's budget failed by a vote of 41-58.
The back and forth over the existence or non-existence of a budget is nothing new around Capitol Hill. But in an election year, the votes today will provide both sides with fresh political ammunition in the key fight over deficits, debt, and which party has the upper hand in the economic recovery of the nation.