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The political relevance of Rand Paul's budget

Associated Press

For budget wonks, last week was arguably the greatest week of the year. House Republicans narrowly passed their budget; Senate Democrats narrowly passed their budget; and there were competing alternatives presented by House Democrats, the Republican Study Committee, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a plan of his own.

A budget plan from Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would balance the budget in five years was voted down in the Senate late Friday night.

Paul's Platform to Revitalize America would cut $2.3 trillion in taxes compared to current policy and reduce government spending by $9.6 trillion.

That Rand Paul presented his own plan is not especially shocking. What matters, however, is what's in it and who voted for it.

As you'd probably guess, the Paul budget plan is pretty out there. To eliminates the deficit in five years, the senator would abolish the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, while privatizing the Transportation Security Authority. Paul would also slash taxes on the rich by establishing a 17% flat tax and eliminating capital gains taxes.

What's more, Paul's budget plan would raise the Social Security retirement age and privatize Medicare, while taking health care benefits away from millions of Americans by eliminating the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

Again, this is largely what one should expect from Paul, given his fringe ideology. But let's not brush past the fact that 18 senators voted for this thing -- and those votes may come with some electoral consequences.

Sure, it generated 81 "nay" votes, but Paul voted for his plan, as did Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and David Vitter (La.).

Now, most of the senators on the list are from deep "red" states, and probably have nothing to worry about. Democrats will struggle to find a credible challenger for most of these incumbents, and it's unlikely there will be a lot of attack ads come re-election time.

But a few of these guys are taking a chance voting for Rand Paul's agenda. Wisconsin isn't exactly on par with Oklahoma when it comes to ideology, but there was Ron Johnson voting for a plan that cuts Social Security. Arizona is becoming increasingly competitive, but that didn't stop Jeff Flake from supporting it, too.

Kentucky isn't quite a battleground state, but Democrats are gunning for Mitch McConnell next year, and in a close contest, it's easy to imagine a vote like this becoming campaign fodder.

Paul's blueprint is simply at odds with the wishes of the American mainstream. Don't be too surprised if its supporters feel some heat for their votes.