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Senate Budget Committee to Move Forward With Markup

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad has expressed a desire to mark up a “longer-term plan” next week, but Senate Democrats are hesitant to bring a formal budget resolution to the floor.

Democrats have taken a series of missteps on handling the public relations around the budget process, beginning with a request from the Senate parliamentarian to rule in favor of blocking budgets from being brought to the floor. Budget resolutions enjoy special privilege that only requires 51 votes to open debate, followed by a nearly limitless number of amendments if debate begins. The prospect of taking a seemingly infinite number of political votes, such as amendments banning Viagra for sex offenders that were slipped into a “vote-a-rama” on the 2010 health care law, is one Democrats do not want to entertain.

Though aides from both parties concede that the debate in committee, and on the floor if leaders allow, likely will prove futile, it will open the door for both Democrats and Republicans to hammer home their talking points on salient political issues in an election year.

A GOP source to a rank-and-file Member indicated that Republicans have been advised to try to make time April 16 for a Republican-only meeting of Members on the panel, and a representative for the committee confirmed that a meeting likely will happen before the markup, though an exact time has not been confirmed.

It’s too soon to predict strategy from either side, with most Members at home in their states as part of a two-week district work period.

But some sources suggest that Democrats will try to project the budget as “the Conrad Budget” in order to try to distance themselves from whatever plan is moved through committee in the event they have to vote against it, either on the panel or on the floor. There is no guarantee the plan will be approved by the budget panel even as it is marked up. Republicans likely will continue to push the narrative that Senate Democrats have not approved a formal budget resolution in three years.

Last year, the Senate voted on — and dismissed — four budgets: the House-approved Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) budget, President Barack Obama’s budget, and two offerings from freshman GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

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