In theory, it made sense for the Senate to forgo its scheduled week-long recess. There’s a lot to do, and some press deadlines. I was glad to see Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bring his colleagues back.

But in practice, the Senate is still the Senate.

This week, members will consider a non-binding measure that simply expresses a basic opinion: millionaires and billionaires should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit-reduction effort.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama said asking for broad sacrifice is “rather pathetic.” Policymakers are supposed to deal with the debt Republicans created, but do so only in a way that shields the wealthiest of the wealthy.

Keep in mind, the vote is purely conceptual — it wouldn’t actually impose any sacrifices on rich people; it only gets senators on the record as to whether such sacrifices would be a good idea.

Greg Sargent explained today, “That this vote is happening at all perfectly captures just how surreal this debate has become.”

The notion that the wealthy should sacrifice anything at all in the way of higher taxes or revenues is now such a nonstarter that Dems are finding themselves forced to hold a vote on the general concept that the rich should contribute something “meaningful” to deficit reduction.

This is insane.

Dems are hoping this move puts Republicans on the spot when the resolution is debated on the floor, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Republicans vote on it and how they defend it if they vote No.

I don’t know if the Dem strategy will work, but I do know that this vote reveals that this debate ran off the rails a long time ago.

Agreed. Republicans will probably feel a slight awkwardness voting against the very idea of wealthy sacrifices, or maybe they’ll back the measure and Dems can say, “See? Even the GOP wants millionaires and billionaires to make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit-reduction effort.”

But either way, think about where this process has gone. For three decades, bipartisan debt-reduction plans have been contentious, but sane — Republicans would call for less spending, Democrats would call for additional revenue, and the parties would work out an agreement over the ratio.

In 2011, we have Republicans demanding 100% of what they want or they’ll crash the economy on purpose, and Dems have been reduced to asking GOP senators to agree that the wealthy should give up something when dealing with the debt Republicans built up in the first place.

What a farce.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.