Conrad: Democrats Inch Closer to Budget Deal
Policy + Politics

Conrad: Democrats Inch Closer to Budget Deal

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Democrats are close to a 2012 budget agreement but will wait to present their plan until deficit talks by a group led by Vice President Joe Biden have concluded Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said on Thursday.

In a statement Thursday evening, Conrad said: “We will have a budget.  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.  The results of those negotiations may need to be included in a budget resolution that would be offered in the weeks ahead.  That was the case for both the 1990 and 1997 deficit reduction plans, where a budget resolution and accompanying reconciliation process were used to implement the agreements.”

Senate Republicans blasted Democrats earlier in the day for not passing a budget resolution in the senate for 750 days. Republicans went on to say that waiting for the Biden talks to end was an excuse by Conrad, since Democrats can’t agree on a resolution.

“It seems Senate Democrats are desperately trying to avoid having to present a budget to the American people. 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,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in a statement.Since the beginning of May, Biden and a bipartisan group of six Senate and House members have met three times in search of a compromise for a long-term budget plan that would pave the way for raising the debt ceiling.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT., said he would not support a budget agreement unless there was “shared sacrifice” and that “the wealthiest people in this country…are asked to pay their fair share of taxes.“ Sanders, who sits on the budget committee, said it’s necessary to look at military spending as a source of possible cuts, at a time when the military budget has tripled since 1997.

The federal government on Monday reached its $14.3 trillion legal limit on borrowing, which forced the Treasury to step up the implementation of a series of financial and bookkeeping maneuvers to buy additional time before facing the real prospects of the first U.S. debt default in history. The White House expects the Biden-led group to produce some agreement by June but the talks are likely to lead up to the August 2 deadline.

Delaying a budget resolution could push the senate appropriations process to the end of the 2011 fiscal year in September.

Conrad’s announcement, meanwhile, comes on the heels of the collapse of the bipartisan “Gang of Six”, which for months has been trying to hammer out a deal behind closed doors to rein in the nation’s federal debt. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., left the group over a spat about what the deficit-reduction package would include. Coburn wanted some $130 billion more in cuts from Medicare. Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the demands were unreasonable.

Related Links:
Conrad: No Budget Resolution Markup (The Hill)
No Plan B if Debt Ceiling Not Raised (Wall Street Journal)
GOP Isn’t Buying Debt Limit Pitch (POLITICO)