Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 2:56 p.m.
In an election year move, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., broke with many in his party Wednesday, voting against a Republican budget proposal that would have dramatically reshaped Medicare and cut trillions from the federal budget.
Heller, who twice before voted in favor of the Republican budget crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, described his vote as a protest against a showmanship process that was never meant to result in a new federal budget.
“Today’s votes were not a serious effort to pass a budget,” Heller said in a written statement. “After this charade, our nation is no closer to economic prosperity or addressing our massive national debt.”
Heller voted no on a series of five non-binding budget resolutions, including President Barack Obama’s budget plan, which was unanimously rejected by the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Democrats also described the process as a charade, lodging their own protest votes.
“It’s almost universally acknowledged that Republican obstructionism has reached new heights in the Senate,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday. “Democrats would have to break a filibuster to declare the sky blue or the Earth round.”
But Heller’s budget votes also were a strategic campaign move, as he enters a pitched battle for his seat against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
Heller’s vote against the Ryan budget—which Democrats consistently point to in their argument that Republicans want to undermine Medicare—will allow him to counter an expected deluge of attacks from Berkley.
Heller also will use the vote to portray himself as willing to stand up to the silliness in Washington, D.C., even when that silliness is perpetrated by his own party. Indeed, Wednesday’s budget votes were a tactical maneuver by the GOP to force Democrats to vote on the various proposals.
Heller was one of five Republicans to vote against the Ryan budget, which was defeated 41 to 58.
The move also will keep voters guessing as to his real position on the Ryan budget. In his statement, Heller neglected to say equivocally whether his opinion has actually changed.
“I have voted on Republican budgets in the past,” Heller said. “It’s no secret where I stand.”