Senate Democrats are punting for now on a budget resolution.
Budget Chairman Kent Conrad said Democrats on the committee are very close to an agreement.
“We will have a budget,” the North Dakota Democrat said in a statement. “But, after broad consultation, we have decided to defer a budget mark-up because of the high-level bipartisan leadership negotiations that are currently underway.”
Conrad noted that previous bipartisan deals in 1990 and 1997 required budget resolutions and reconciliation bills.
However, Democrats have engaged in an internal struggle for weeks over the political wisdom of moving a partisan budget blueprint to the floor, given that it would stall in the House and would provide a fresh target for Republican attacks.
Conrad said earlier Thursday that it wasn’t clear that holding a markup on a Democratic blueprint would have been helpful to getting an overall deal to cut the deficit.
Republicans led by Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.) have been lambasting Democrats for weeks over their failure to propose a budget for a second straight year. Sessions spoke on the Senate floor Thursday with a giant sign saying “750” — the number of days since the Senate last passed a budget.
He also ripped the Democrats after Conrad’s announcement Thursday.
“It seems Senate Democrats are desperately trying to avoid having to present a budget to the American people,” Sessions said in a statement. “They know that the big spenders in their caucus prevent them from bringing forward a credible plan that both their party and the country can support.”
And Sessions said deferring to bipartisan deficit talks was another “excuse for delay.”
Indeed, there is nothing precluding Senate Democrats from passing their own budget plan except for politics. A final budget resolution would have to be negotiated with the House regardless.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.