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Still No Public Budget From Senate Dems

8:50 AM, May 12, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Where is the Senate Democrats' actual budget plan for 2012? Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, presented a proposal to his caucus in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, telling reporters afterward that the plan will seek to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion, with $2 trillion in spendings cuts and another $2 trillion in tax hikes. But Conrad hasn't released any specifics regarding what cuts he would make or which taxes he would increase. 

Nevertheless, there are some clues as to the specifics in the elusive Conrad budget plan. In an article Wednesday from Congressional Quarterly, Paul M. Krawzak reported on some details, which were told to him by an anonymous aide:

According to the Senate staff member, Conrad’s latest proposal would call for cuts of $900 billion from defense and $300 billion from non-security discretionary spending over 10 years. It envisions cuts of $300 billion from mandatory spending programs, and while specifics have yet to be released, Conrad has said Social Security would not be affected.

The plan relies on about $600 billion in savings from lower interest payments on the debt to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction.

If the interest savings are viewed as spending cuts, total savings from spending cuts is about $2 trillion.

Also on Tuesday, conservative GOP senators, led by Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), released a plan that aims to balance the budget within the decade (while reiterating their support for the budget the Paul Ryan passed last month in the House). As long as Democrats control the Senate, however, it's unlikely the Toomey plan would ever pass the committee or receive a floor vote. Since the Senate has chosen not to adopt the president's plan, Conrad will either have to present a concrete plan to his committee for mark up or simply not pass a budget at all.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, spoke about the absent budget on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday:

...it has been 742 days since the Senate passed a budget. The Democrat-led Senate has missed the statutory April 15th deadline two years in a row. Is it any wonder this nation is going broke? We are in the middle of a fiscal crisis, and the Senate—unlike the House—has not even passed, let alone presented, a plan to deal with it.

Sessions and his fellow Republicans on the Budget Committee wrote a letter to Conrad last week reiterating their April 26 request that “the Chairman’s proposal be released and posted online no less than 72 hours before we first meet to mark up the budget so that Committee members, as well as the public, could review and ask questions about it.” Conrad’s office has not responded to my requests for comment, and GOP staffers tell me that the chairman has not communicated with Sessions or any other committee Republicans about his apparent plan.

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