Senate Finally Showing Signs of Momentum on 2012 Budget

After weeks of inaction, the Senate seems to finally be moving forward on the 2012 budget, albeit cautiously.  This week Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) unveiled his revised budget plan for his Senate Democratic colleagues to view.  The updated plan, whose contents have not yet been released publicly, apparently would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion over the next decade.  The $4 trillion in deficit reduction would reportedly be achieved through an equal split in spending cuts and increased revenues. 

A 50-50 split between spending cuts and revenue enhancements stands in sharp contrast to the President, who has advocated 75% spending cuts and 25% revenue enhancements.  The issue is an important one because to the extent that more revenue is brought in, there will be less need and pressure to cut important programs serving vulnerable children and families, such as Medicaid.  While the specific details of the Conrad plan have not yet been released, Senator Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that it makes “very small” cuts to Medicaid and “does not savage it.”  In contrast, the House budget proposal would gut Medicaid, replacing the program with a block grant and cutting the program essentially in half by reducing funding by $700 billion for it over the next 10 years. 

The next step for the Conrad budget would be its public release followed by a markup in the Senate Budget Committee.  It remains to be seen if the full Senate will vote on the plan if it passes the committee or not, as its passage could prove difficult with several moderate Democrats wary of the scope of the revenue enhancements.

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