Budget votes make for great 30-second campaign ads, stump speeches and debate fodder and the National Republican Congressional Committee wasted no time hitting vulnerable Democrats who voted Thursday against the budget crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan ,R-Wis.
"It is such a sham. The only people paying attention during budget floor votes are political committees," Jimmy Williams, a democratic strategist, said last week.
Minutes after passage of Ryan's budget, which balances the country's revenue and spending in just a decade, the NRCC sent out a press release calling out more than 40 lawmakers in swing districts who voted against the budget blueprint.
The NRCC dinged lawmakers like freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., who narrowly defeated tea party darling Allen West in November; Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C. who continuously faces an uphill election bid in his conservative-leaning district; and Rep. Annie Kuster, D, N.H., another new congressman who represents a moderate district.
"Democrats like Kuster believe we don't need to balance the budget—ever—and we can tax and spend our way to economic growth. Americans are looking for leaders who understand that, in order to create jobs, Washington must balance their budget, just like families do," the press release read.
But vulnerable Democrats are not the only ones who had to weigh their vote carefully, knowing it could make them vulnerable to primary and general election challenges. In the 2012 campaign, Democrats hit lawmakers over and over again for their support of a budget that cuts Medicare. This year, 10 Republicans voted against the legislation.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also sent out a release Thursday hitting lawmakers for voting for the Ryan budget.
James Thurber, a congressional budget expert at American University, says that all the political noise is exactly what is wrong with the budget process today.
Thurber argues that Republicans and Democrats each introduced budgets that they knew would be doomed to fail in the opposite chamber.
"Both of these are firmly too far to the right or too far to the left. What would break the deadlock is if people were willing to compromise on cuts or on revenues and that isn't going to happen," Thurber says.
The shrinking number of moderate congressional districts has created an environment where no one is willing to stick their neck out and compromise, he says.
"The House has been redistricted in a way where there are so many safe seats and the real elections happen in the primary process," Thurber says. "No one is willing to take the risk and be moderate because they are worried their electorate would not support them. They do not want to get defeated or challenged in the primary."
Budget documents, which are not enforceable by law and are designed to simply set a spending target goal, have long been used as campaign fodder, but some optimistic experts say that the process could also signal progress in Congress.
The Senate, which has not rolled out a budget plan since 2009, will vote on its budget this week after an epic and rare "vote-a-rama," a series of rapid-fire votes on amendments.
Alice Rivlin, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration, says it's best to look at the budget votes this week as a preliminary step to get the country's fiscal house in order.
"The Murray budget is the first time Democrats have done this in a while," Rivlin says. "The Congress has gotten back to work using its regular procedures. While the Ryan and Murray budgets are very different, you'd expect that because they are opening offers in the negotiations."
Rivlin says the budget process isn't just a political maneuver, but a chance for both parties to show their cards and get to work on reducing the country's long-term deficit.
"The Congress has gotten the message that the country would like them to get to work," Rivlin says.