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Even Without a Budget on Budget Day, Parties Gear Up for Battle Over Spending

Budget day came without a fiscal 2014 budget proposal on Monday, but congressional Republicans didn’t let the occasion go by without a sharp attack against the White House on its priorities and its inability to complete a federal spending plan by the required deadline.

“This was supposed to be the day that the president submitted his budget to the Congress. But it’s not coming. It’s gonna be late. And some reports say that it could be as long as a month late. I think that’s too bad. The economy could use presidential leadership right now,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a floor speech Monday.

The White House had already notified Congress a couple of weeks ago that the budget would be delayed because of the uncertainty over the fiscal-cliff issues, which were resolved only a month ago. But GOP lawmakers are looking for the plan as a new opportunity to focus on the deficit and spending on programs favored by Democrats and to contrast that with the discipline they intend to display in their own budget resolution.

Without an Obama administration budget to target, House Republicans instead trumpeted legislation introduced by Georgia Rep. Tom Price last week requiring the president to offer either a budget that balances in 10 years or a supplementary plan stating when the president’s budget would eliminate the deficit.

House leadership expects a vote Tuesday on that bill, which Democrats have derided as a purely political exercise.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to GOP criticism of the delay by chiding House Republicans for passing “highly partisan” budgets that have “no support among the American people.” He said it was more important to focus on “substance over deadlines,” noting President Barack Obama “has put forward consistently budgets that achieve what the American people overwhelmingly support.”

Carney said Obama already has offered a proposal, apparently referring to the fiscal-cliff negotiations late last year, which “the speaker of the House is welcome to take up today or tomorrow as he might wish which represents balanced deficit reduction.”

But on Capitol Hill, the sharp words without budget numbers on the table signaled that both sides are gearing up for a major battle between vastly different approaches to government that will be evident in the spending plans.

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., has already said he plans a budget with more ambitious deficit reduction targets than he set last year in a plan that Obama and other Democrats derided during the campaign season that led to Obama’s re-election last fall.

This year, the release of the White House budget in the coming weeks likely will come around the time Ryan releases his own spending blueprint and as Senate Democrats begin work on their first budget resolution in four years.

Ryan issued a statement Monday saying that the missed deadline would “delay choices we need to make.”

By law, the budget is supposed to be released on the first Monday of February, but there is no penalty for missing the deadline. Carney declined to say when the plan will be released, but congressional staff who are familiar with the process anticipate early March.

The Obama administration has blamed the delay on uncertainty surrounding how Congress would deal with expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, a question that was resolved on Jan. 1.

Ryan pledged Monday that the House would meet its April 1 deadline for adopting a fiscal 2014 budget resolution, a tax and spending framework, as it did last year. Budget law requires the House and Senate to complete action on a budget resolution by April 15.

After three years in which the Senate did not consider a budget resolution, new Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the chamber will consider a budget resolution this year, though the timing is unclear.

House leaders promised the GOP plan would lay out a path for balancing the budget in 10 years, something that budget experts said will be a challenge and that Democrats said would require onerous cuts in domestic programs.

“Republicans will meet our obligations and pass another budget in the coming weeks that addresses our spending problem, promotes robust job creation and expands opportunity for all Americans,” Boehner said in a statement.

Though no date has been set, the House Budget Committee is expected to mark up its budget during the third week of March, with House consideration the following week.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office will release a new budget and economic forecast Tuesday, setting out a baseline estimating what spending, taxes and the deficit would be for the next 10 years if all current laws were followed. That baseline will provide the common measuring stick for the budget proposals and the programs that are included.

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