Senate passage would send the measure, with numerous changes, back to the House, which initially approved it last week.
The debate in the Senate Budget Committee is the first time since 2009 that Democrats in charge of the Senate have advanced a budget blueprint, which opened to predictably poor reviews from the panel's Republicans, who said it was heavy on tax increases and light on cuts to rapidly growing benefit and safety-net programs.
"Is it really possible that after four years, the majority has failed to identify any reforms? That all we have is just a tax-and-spend budget that makes no alteration to our dangerous debt course?" said the top Senate Budget Committee Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. "Does the majority believe the government is perfect and requires no reform?"
At issue is the arcane and partisan congressional budget process, which calls for a unique, nonbinding measure called a budget resolution. When the process works as designed — which is rarely — budget resolutions have the potential to stake out parameters for follow-up legislation specifying spending and rewriting the complex U.S. tax code.
The House budget plan embraces tough new spending levels required under the unpopular, across-the-board spending cuts that began to take effect this month. But in order to protect the Pentagon, Republicans cut even more deeply into the day-to-day operating budgets of domestic agencies next year, slashing them from the $506 billion projected under the 2011 debt and budget pact to $414 billion — an unprecedented 18 percent cut.
Murray's budget, meanwhile, not only preserves the spending caps set in the hard-fought 2011 deal but proposes $100 billion in stimulus spending for road and bridge construction, school repairs and worker training.