Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, yesterday announced that he would be blocking a set of unanimous consent measures this week in protest of the Senate Democrats, who don't have a budget plan for the 2012 fiscal year.
The Senate plans to hold votes on a package of budgets this week in a set schedule, a parliamentary move that requires unanimous consent. Sessions says he will object to this, forcing a cloture vote on the schedule that will require a supermajority. His planned objection to the unanimous consent, he says, is a protest motion to draw attention to the fact that the Democratic majority in the Senate has failed to pass a budget in over 750 days.
"The planned series of votes are designed by the Majority Leader to fail," Sessions said in his floor speech. "[They are] designed as a gimmick to distract attention from the unwillingness of Senate Democrats to produce an honest plan."
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), responded to Sessions's threat via Twitter: "In case anyone had any doubts, Sen. Sessions just made it clear: Repubs are petrified of voting on their own party’s plan to end Medicare." A spokesman for Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the GOP was resorting to "hijinx" [sic] in order to avoid a vote on the Ryan budget.
Under Senate rules, an individual budget resolution can be brought up for a vote by any senator even if the budget package schedule fails. According to an aide, Sessions would likely not bring the Ryan budget up for a vote "in deference to leadership." Sessions has said he would vote for the Ryan budget.
Sessions also plans to block unanimous consent on a resolution coming this week to adjourn the Senate a weeklong Memorial Day recess, also in protest to the Senate Democrat's failure to produce a budget plan. Similar to the budget package schedule resolution, such an objection would force a cloture vote on the adjournment, though this time only requiring a simple majority of senators. The intention, then, is to have Democratic senators voting to adjourn on the record without having produced a budget plan.
All 47 Republicans in the Senate, meanwhile, have signed a letter to Harry Reid, urging the Democrats to produce a budget.