Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) indicated late Monday he was prepared to hold a markup on a budget proposal Wednesday afternoon. But at a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, Conrad said tomorrow would only be “the beginning of a markup” and that a vote on the budget likely won't happen until after the November election.
Conrad's budget is essentially the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission proposal from 2010. “It is a plan which I think best represents an opportunity and a blueprint from which to build a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement,” he said.
But Conrad also said he does not expect committee members to vote or add amendments to the proposal—there will only be opening statements to “begin the discussion.” The Democrat said he does not think there will be any agreement within the committee on a budget proposal until Congress’s lame duck session at the end of 2012.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the budget committee’s ranking member says the beginning of a markup isn’t a markup at all. “It begins like one, but until it’s finished, it’s not a markup,” Sessions said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
Sessions said he believes Conrad was “prepared to move forward” on a committee vote Wednesday but thatDemocratic leadership in the Senate, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), resisted. Reid confirmed with reporters that he was unwilling to bring a budget bill to a vote on the floor.
“[Conrad] showed some gumption,” Sessions said. “But it’s very evident that…the entire Democratic conference and the leader did not want their members to be held accountable with a vote.”
Conrad, however, argued the budget proposal demands “weeks and weeks and months and months effort.”
“What becomes very clear is how long it takes to do this work, and we need to start the discussion and the negotiation now if we’re going to be ready for what we all know is coming at us at the end of this year: The expiration of all the tax cuts and the imposition of the sequester. It can’t wait. Those discussions can’t wait. Those negotiations can’t wait. I don’t think we’ll be prepared to vote before the election, but we do have to do the homework to be prepared before we get to the end of this year,” Conrad said.
The Senate has not passed a budget resolution in 1,084 days. Conrad, however, insisted that there are budgets for both fiscal years 2012 and 2013, as provided for in the Budget Control Act, the resolution of the 2011 debt limit standoff.