Rep. Paul Ryan's conservative budget proposal passed the House of Representatives 219 to 205 on Thursday, with 12 defections among the GOP ranks. As has been the case with Paul Ryan budgets of years past, the proposal is doomed to die in the Democratically-controlled Senate. But this is a mid-term election year, and Republicans believe they have a shot at taking over Congress next year. That, combined with Rep. Ryan's own political ambitions beyond 2014, means that today's vote was an opportunity for Republicans to make a campaign statement.
This year's Ryan proposal, as usual, advocates for deep cuts to social programs in favor of a claim that those cuts would help balance the budget over the next decade. This year's budget proposal would cut $5 trillion through 2024, with the harshest cuts coming from healthcare programs aimed at low income, uninsured Americans, food stamps, and various education and community-based grant programs.
Keeping with some popular programs for the Republican party's aging, white voter base, the budget would keep Social Security benefits where they are and increase funding for the military, as the AP explains. But because Rep. Ryan and Sen Patty Murray have already brokered a deal that sets federal funding levels through next year, there's no chance the Senate will pass a budget this year, let alone Ryan's. Beyond its ability to let Republicans record a vote to point to on the trail, the Ryan budget is simply not necessary.
That's not to say that the proposal itself was controversy-free for Republicans. As Politico explained, House conservatives were mad at the Republican leadership going into Thursday's vote because of a controversial parliamentary move taken by Speaker John Boehner last month. Conservatives had threatened to sink the budget in protest of the "doc fix" legislation's passage on a voice vote. But Boehner successfully stopped the planned protest enough to let the bill pass. At most, he could afford 16 defections. Today's 12 GOP votes against the bill is only slightly higher than last year's vote on a Ryan budget, when 10 Republicans voted with Democrats against it.