Senator concedes floor time for budget resolution hard to get

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Tuesday he still holds out hope Congress can pass a budget resolution, but he concedes it will be difficult to get floor time for the spending plan before the Memorial Day recess.

Conrad pointed to the fact that it has taken the Senate several weeks to consider financial regulation reform legislation, which could run into next week, and that several other legislative priorities, including a war supplemental, could crowd out the resolution.

Democrats "are trying very hard to accomplish financial reform, [but] there is always something that is a priority," Conrad said.

He added, "You have the problem, as always, of people not wanting to cast difficult votes in an election year; that is obviously one of the elements. Also, election years are shorter years, which means you have less floor time" than non-election years.

But when asked if he believes that a resolution would not be passed this year, he declined to throw in the towel.

"The House, I am told, that there is still a shot," Conrad said, adding that the Senate action on a resolution will depend on what the House plans to do and when financial reform legislation can be passed.

The Senate Budget Committee passed its resolution last month. The Senate spending plan would freeze non-security spending for three years and reduce the deficit to 3 percent of the gross domestic product by fiscal 2015.

House Democratic leaders are trying to negotiate an agreement within their ranks over how much discretionary spending to provide.

The Blue Dogs are pushing for a 2 percent-a-year cut in non-security discretionary spending for three years and a freeze for another two. Many Blue Dogs represent conservative districts and are concerned about being linked to a spending plan that will likely have high deficits over the next five years. But liberal Democrats are opposed to the Blue Dog proposal because they are concerned that it would hurt federal programs on which their constituents depend.

If no agreement can be reached on a full resolution, one option would be to pass a deeming resolution, which would set the fiscal 2011 discretionary funding level.

Republicans have been increasingly critical of Democrats for putting off a decision on a budget resolution.

"House Democratic leaders ... have not yet decided whether to move a budget blueprint, knowing that such a vote will be used as political ammunition against vulnerable members this fall," House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday.

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