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Of 'drunken sailors' and false dilemmas

Senate President Jeff Atwater's election-year push to petition Congress to stop all that deficit spending passed the Senate floor this afternoon with predictable results. Republicans said this isn't prompted by Tea Parties or the fact that a Democratic president and Congress are in charge. Democrats said they feared that, in calling for a Constitutional Convention, it could unleash proposed changes to the Constitution that would cause chaos.

Final vote: 28-12, largely on party lines. (Sens. Jeremy Ring and Charlie Justice voted yes)

Front and center in the debate: The federal stimulus money, a product of deficit spending that helped galvanize the Tea Party rallies. Republican and Democratic legislators alike plan to gobble up $15.4 billion of it over three budget years. But Republicans in Congress say it's wasteful.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, called out both President Bush and President Obama for the current federal deficits. He also took issue with the saying that Congres is spending money "like a drunken sailor."

"That’s not true. I was a drunken sailor and I never spent money that way. I was there," Bennett said.

Sen. Joe Negron kicked it all off by kvetching that “Our country is drowning in a sea of red ink. It’s neither a Democratic or a Republican issue. Both parties share a part of the blame.” He took issue with the claim that Republicans are "hypocritical" for calling for a federal balanced budget amendment while eagerly balancing the state budget with borrowed money from the feds. Negron said it was a "false dilemma... Help the state or balance the budget. You can support some stimulus funding and still support a balanced budget… they shouldn’t be sending money to the state that they don’t have."

Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said that didn't make sense: "this state accepted those billions.. wasn’t the behavior of this body inconsistent?"

Negron also pushed for Atwater's proposed language asking voters if they wanted a federally balanced budget. Cost: $80,000. But Negron said that really wasnt any money at all because the referendum language would go on the general-election ballot.

"In my house, $80,000 is still money," Justice said.