Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) will mark up a fiscal 2013 budget plan when Congress returns to Washington next week.
Despite the move, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he has no intention of bringing a budget resolution to the floor, arguing that there is no reason to consider a plan because the discretionary spending limit of $1.047 trillion for next year is already set out in the debt-limit law passed last summer.
Conrad said the debt-limit deal from last summer set discretionary spending levels not just for next year but for the next 10 years.
"It's very clear that it stands in place of a budget resolution and in many ways it is stronger than the budget resolution," he said.
Conrad pushed back against the idea that Congress has not produced a budget in the past three years.
"This notion that we've not had a budget for three years is just wrong," he said.
He also said it would be unlikely that the two chambers could reach a compromise on spending before November, so a vote on a budget plan his panel would approve "won't happen with a vote on Senate floor before the election."
While he says the spending caps are in place, there still needs to be a long-term plan to deal with burgeoning debt.
"What we don't have is a longer term plan and what we need, at least, is a plan that gets deficits and debt under control, that has a way of bringing us together, because if we don't get together we can't solve the problem," Conrad said.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican freshman from Wisconsin, said the debt-limit document only includes a couple of numbers and said it lacks the detail of, say President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget plan, which is 2,500 pages long.
The debt-limit law is "simply not adequate at all," he said Sunday.
"This is not a matter of timing but that it is a matter of will," Johnson said, arguing that the crux of the problem is a lack of presidential leadership.
Senate Republicans, and even GOP president hopeful Mitt Romney, have railed against Democrats for not moving forward on a budget plan.
The House approved the GOP budget plan drawn up by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) before leaving for the two-week recess. That budget blueprint lowers the discretionary spending cap down to $1.028 trillion, a move derided by House and Senate Democrats, making it an even bigger stretch to reach an agreement leading up to the elections.
Romney has expressed support for that plan, a proposal that has been harshly criticized by the White House and congressional Democrats.
Conrad said the Ryan plan contains too many Bush administration policies that brought us "to the brink of financial collapse."
"Do we really want repeat that? Do we really go back to the economy shrinking at a rate of 9 percent and losing 800,000 private-sector jobs a month?" he said.
Johnson said most Senate Republicans would support the Ryan budget and they would "probably force a vote on that," although he said it probably wouldn't pass.
Under regular order the House and Senate approve budget plans and aim to compromise on a discretionary spending number so they can set their appropriations subcommittees to work out the finer details. A budget resolution is not signed by the president.