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GOP Spoiling for Budget Fight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad has said his committee will mark up a budget proposal, but more recently he noted the Budget Control Act has already set the budget.

Senate Republicans see a political opportunity in their Democratic counterparts’ decision to forgo a budget blueprint this year.

As the GOP makes its case to voters to take back the majority, Republicans plan to argue that budgeting is a basic aspect of governing and shows where a party’s priorities lie.

“A budget is an important thing,” a Senate GOP leadership aide said.

It’s an idea, the aide noted, to which voters can relate: “Every household has to budget, or they lose the house.”

But for Democrats, a budget resolution fight would accomplish little beyond giving Republicans a chance to offer political amendments designed to put vulnerable incumbents on the spot. After all, the chance of reconciling a budget with the GOP House is a remote possibility, given the partisan political climate of this Congress.

So it was not a surprise Friday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confirmed what Republicans have long suspected: Democrats do not plan to bring a budget resolution to the Senate floor this year despite plans by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to mark up a spending proposal in committee.

“We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year. ... We already did it,” Reid said on a conference call with reporters Friday.

Reid said the Senate already has a budget in the spending levels that were set this past summer in the deal to raise the debt ceiling, also known as the Budget Control Act.

He said the law is stronger than a nonbinding budget resolution and that the Appropriations committees are already at work building off the spending levels set by that law.

Reid dismissed Republican attacks over the failure of Democrats to bring a budget resolution to the Senate floor since 2009.

“They haven’t anything better to do,” Reid said. “We have a law, not some idea, not some wish.”

Over the past few weeks, Conrad was confident about his budget resolution plans, but he seemed less sure Thursday.

“I don’t think we are prepared to make a judgment on what the likelihood is [for a budget resolution this year], until we have a proposal and reaction from people to that proposal,” Conrad said. Also, “we have a backup in place because of the Budget Control Act; we have a budget for this year.”

And Conrad dismissed possible Republican criticisms.

“It doesn’t matter what you do; in this town, you are subject to criticism,” Conrad said.

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