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Conrad Insists It’s ‘Full Speed Ahead’ for Budget

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) insisted Tuesday that Democrats would press forward with a budget this year, pushing back against reports that they might skip it.

“We’re going full speed ahead,” Conrad said.

Conrad said he plans to hold a markup on the 2011 budget blueprint “in the next several weeks,” and he is considering including reconciliation instructions for a significant deficit-cutting package, which would be exempt from filibusters.

Asked if Senators have questioned the wisdom of doing a budget this year, Conrad replied: “I’ve not had a single person say that.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) earlier Tuesday was noncommittal on whether Democrats had the votes to pass the spending outline, noting that Congress did not pass a budget in four of the past five election years when Republicans were in charge of the House.

“We would like to pass a budget,” Hoyer said. “We have to see whether we have the votes to do so.”

Conrad, meanwhile, said that a reconciliation package and President Barack Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission could be a “one-two punch.”

But Conrad said that he could not talk about the details of what might be included in a deficit package before meeting with other members of the Budget Committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Tuesday that he wants reconciliation instructions to be included allowing a variety of priorities to escape filibusters, including a public health insurance option, school construction and energy conservation. Senate Democrats used reconciliation to pass a health care overhaul last month.

And Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she wants a budget resolution with reconciliation simply as a tool to thwart GOP obstructionism in general.

“I think personally a budget resolution should include reconciliation instructions so we have them if we need them,” Stabenow said. “What I’m interested in is letting the democratic process work, which is a majority vote. If the only way that we can do that is reconciliation, then I think we have to have that tool available.”

Republicans took aim at the possibility Democrats might punt on a budget.

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), noted that the House at least had always passed a budget resolution even if the House and Senate did not always agree on a joint budget.

“Given the challenges the American people are facing — nearly double-digit unemployment, tax hike after tax hike, and trillion-dollar deficits are far as the eye can see — failing to pass a budget this year would be utterly irresponsible,” Steel said.

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