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Reid Urges Caution on Budget Deals

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad presented a draft budget to the Democratic Conference on Tuesday, but it’s not clear yet whether the Conference or Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) will back him up.

The North Dakota Democrat told reporters after the caucus lunch that he has prepared his own budget in case the bipartisan “gang of six” is unable to reach an agreement. Conrad said he could be ready to move his plan through his committee as soon as next week.

“I’m running out of time,” Conrad said. He said that he is still very engaged with the gang of six, but they may not be able to reach a deal before he has to act.

Conrad said his budget blueprint does not touch Social Security but in general follows the larger contours of the plan proposed by the co-chairmen of the president’s fiscal commission last year. Conrad said the plan would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. He added that it would raise revenue but could do so while still cutting tax rates overall and getting rid of tax loopholes.

That idea has been largely embraced by Democrats but has split Republicans, some of whom simply call it a different kind of tax increase.

Reid, with an eye on upcoming budget negotiations with the House and the White House, appeared wary of the proposal, however. In a press conference after the lunch, Reid said he told Members of his caucus to hold off signing on to any specific plan “until we know what the endgame is … until we really know where we are heading.”

Reid ripped the House budget blueprint, as well as a proposal from Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that would impose a hard cap on spending.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Budget Committee, said there is a desire to do a budget soon. And although he would prefer a bipartisan agreement, he said they cannot wait if one doesn’t materialize quickly.

“The pressure’s on us to move,” he said. “I think we need to give direction to our committees.”