Senate Democrats itching for budget fight with GOP


Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-WA, (R) holds up a layoff notification during a news conference at the US Capitol on the eve of the budget sequester on February 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

After refusing to adopt a budget for the past three years, Senate Democratic leaders are suddenly embracing the task with gusto — convinced that it provides the perfect opportunity to draw a contrast with the penny-pinching policies of House Republicans.

The new Senate Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is planning to unveil a 10-year spending plan within the next two weeks and push it out of committee by the middle of March, aides say.

Murray has distributed at least two memos to her colleagues about the virtues of adopting a budget. The latest, sent around Friday, offers little new information about the course Murray will take to tame the national debt. But it does show a line of attack against the budget framework that will soon be released by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

“The differences between our approach and that of the House Republicans could not be starker,” Murray wrote. “We don’t yet know the details of House Republicans’ updated budget plan, but assuming they keep their promises, we have a good idea about what to expect.”

The memo goes on to predict that Ryan will “resort to gimmicks or make deep, extreme cuts to programs that impact families, seniors and our long-term economic strength” to achieve his goal of wiping out annual deficits within the next 10 years.

“Balancing the budget by 2023 would require at least $4.6 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade ... on top of the $2.4 trillion in savings Congress and the Administration worked together to enact since 2011 and in addition to the $1.2 trillion in cuts from sequestration currently going into effect,” Murray wrote

Assuming Ryan keeps his pledge not to raise taxes, the memo said, “the House Republicans’ approach would result in over $8 trillion in savings, or twice as much as the amount originally recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission” and close to 10 percent of total projected spending.

Moreover, if Ryan spares Medicare and Social Security, Murray wrote, “the remaining pieces of the budget would have to take a 17 percent across-the-board cut.” That figure that would soar to 23 percent if the Pentagon were excluded from the cuts.

“We won’t be able to impact the budget House Republicans are preparing,” Murray wrote. But their “extreme approach makes a responsible alternative that puts middle class families first all the more clear.”

Lori Montgomery covers U.S. economic policy and the federal budget, focusing on efforts to tame the national debt.
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