Capitol Hill Republicans were downright giddy earlier this year when they forced Senate Democrats into agreeing to pass a formal budget resolution for the first time in four years.
Now Senate Democrats are trying to turn the tables on Republicans, demanding that the GOP allow the budget process to move forward by naming negotiators to hammer out a formal budget accord with the House.
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sought Tuesday morning to name 12 senators -- seven Democrats, five Republicans -- to a formal legislative "conference," the process which takes place when the House and Senate pass different versions of the same measure (in this case, a budget resolution).
"They're no longer interested in regular order, even though they preached that for years," said Reid, referring to the slow-moving, formal legislative management process for which many Republican leaders have clamored. "They don't want to go to conference and work things out. They don't even want to name conferees."
Reid added: "It seems House Republicans don't want to be seen discussing even the possibility of compromise with Democrats, for fear that there will be a Tea Party revolt."
Republicans counter that moving toward a former conference process usually involves some level of pre-negotiation that lays the groundwork for an eventual agreement.
"To go to conference right now strikes us as not making much sense," explained Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., following a lunch with fellow Republicans.
And while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, described ongoing conversations between his chief budgetary lieutenant, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., the speaker echoed McConnell in resisting a conference.
Although budget resolutions are often a political exercise -- more often, they represent the priorities of a party than any serious attempt at governing -- Democrats are now trying to seize the initiative on the topic.
House Republicans for years pummeled the Senate Democratic leadership for failing to pass a budget, pointing to the lack of one as a sign of fiscal recklessness. (Reid has said there was no need to pass an overarching budget, given the various fiscal agreements that govern spending levels.)
The House GOP's canard earlier this year, in which they tied a three-month extension in the debt limit to the Senate passing a budget (or endure a pay forfeiture otherwise), was designed to exploit that very lack of a budget.
Democrats are now trying to turn that political maneuvering back against Republicans.
"If the Republicans are serious about reducing the deficit, we need to get to work -- get to work sooner, rather than later," Reid said.
This story was originally published on Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:45 PM EDT