The Hill reports:
Senate Democratic aides expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to force Senate Republicans to vote on the Paul Ryan budget plan.
Reid hasn’t made a formal decision yet, and won’t until he returns from an overseas trip.
The idea is to drive a wedge through the GOP caucus and put vulnerable incumbents such as Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in a political jam.
Senate Democrats felt encouraged Friday after Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) emerged as the first Senate Republican to publicly oppose the House-passed budget blueprint, named after Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“I don’t happen to support Congressman Ryan’s plan but at least he had the courage to put forth a plan to significantly reduce the debt,” Collins said on WCSH 6, a local NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine.
If Reid can show that a bloc of Senate Republicans will not support the dramatic spending cuts and sizable tax cuts passed by the lower chamber, it would help his negotiating leverage with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
After Reid struck a deal with Boehner earlier this month to keep the government funded for the rest of fiscal year 2011, a senior Democratic leadership aide said Reid felt his negotiating position was strengthened after the Senate rejected the House-passed spending cuts.
During the talks, Boehner had repeatedly argued that the House had passed a 2011 spending bill and the Senate had not passed an alternative and therefore Reid should move closer to the GOP position.
After Reid showed that the $61 billion in cuts favored by House Republicans could not pass the Senate, Boehner made the argument less forcefully, according to a Democratic source that participated in the talks.
The Senate killed the 2011 spending bill by a largely party-line vote of 44-56 on March 9.
Reid has not announced whether he will bring the Ryan plan to the floor, one aide cautioned. Senate Democrats won’t know for sure until Reid has finalized his game plan and all Senate scheduling decisions rest with him alone.
Democratic leaders are waiting on a bipartisan negotiating group known as the Gang of Six to propose a long-term deficit reduction plan. That will give Democratic lawmakers a chance to vote on an alternative to the Ryan plan.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is expected to introduce a Senate Democratic budget blueprint that may include the recommendations of the Gang of Six, depending on whether the group reaches a deal.