The pattern in recent years has been the same: Republicans release a budget, Chris Van Hollen attacks it. But this year is different—Van Hollen has something to prove, and another job in his sights.
The ranking member on the House Budget Committee has spent recent days bashing the GOP's budget plan at every opportunity—in press conferences, news releases, and sit-downs and conference calls with reporters. He also released the Democrats' own budget plan Monday afternoon, calling it a blueprint for "broadly shared prosperity."
In the nascent stages of his Maryland Senate campaign, Van Hollen's budget role is a neatly-timed opportunity to win free media as a defender of progressive values—even as some liberal groups line up behind Rep. Donna Edwards. "Our budget is a budget to reward Americans who are working hard every day to get ahead," he said in a Monday press call. "Republicans turn back the clock and disinvest in America."
To Van Hollen and his allies, the budget battle illustrates his clout on fiscal issues, policy chops he says are a key part of his Senate qualifications. "This reminds everyone that Chris Van Hollen is the person who has been battling the Republican budget and putting the meat on the bones of Democratic principles for years, from the budget alternative to his economic action plan," said a Van Hollen ally. "He is an effective messenger and a strong fighter for things that the entire caucus believes in. The budget debate dovetails nicely with what he'll be arguing for as he runs for Senate."