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Plenty of 2012 spending plans, but not one has sufficient support to pass

Plenty of 2012 spending plans, but not one has sufficient support to pass

Democrats and Republicans are flailing in their efforts to generate momentum for any of their competing budget plans. 

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) on Tuesday presented a proposal to his Democratic colleagues that would lower the deficit with a 50-50 split between spending cuts and tax increases. Republicans immediately rejected the idea.

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Meanwhile, Senate Republicans led by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), introduced a measure that excludes an overhaul of Medicare, which is the most controversial part of the Republican budget passed by the House last month. 

Toomey said his plan would actually spend more on Medicare than President Obama’s budget request. The decision to leave Medicare untouched triggered grumbling from the right. Toomey’s proposal also has not one Democratic co-sponsor.

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have been quick recently to oppose each other’s budgets but reticent about what they support. That will make it harder to reach a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. 

Moreover, the bipartisan Gang of Six senators has not yet released its budget plan despite months of intense negotiations.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 MORE (R-Ky.) have for weeks said they will not tolerate any tax increases. Yet they have given details about what spending cuts they want in exchange for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. 

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE this week publicly backed Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE’s (R-Wis.) plan. But after its Medicare reforms attracted criticism at town halls, GOP leaders indicated they will not try to put these provisions  into authorizing legislation.

Sensing a political advantage, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo end sugar subsidies, conservatives can't launch a frontal attack House presses Senate GOP on filibuster reform A pro-science approach to Yucca Mountain appropriations MORE (D-Nev.) has said he will schedule a vote on Ryan’s budget. McConnell countered by seeking a roll call on Obama’s budget.

The failure of all these plans to gain traction increases the importance of talks between Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden says he would advise Trump against Mueller interview Biden on Trump's 'treason' comments: 'He's a joke' Joe Kennedy: Biden likely would have defeated Trump MORE and congressional leaders about the debt ceiling.

Biden met for a second time Tuesday with the Senate chairmen of the Finance and Appropriations committees as well as with Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan Cantor'Release the memo' — let's stop pretending that Democrats are the defenders of the FBI Raúl Labrador, a model for Hispanic politicians reaching higher Eric Cantor: Moore ‘deserves to lose’ MORE (R-Va.) and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

McConnell has said any big deficit-cutting deal would probably be tied to the debt limit. But some leaders doubt these talks will produce more than a temporary plan to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debts. 

“Knowing that we are very far apart between the president, the Senate and where we are, we are not under any illusion that we’re going to get some grand- slam agreement,” Ryan said last week.

Conrad, a member of the Gang of Six, has a delicate line to toe on his own panel.

Responding to strong criticism from liberals on the Budget Committee such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump has declared war on our climate — we won’t let him win Stock slide bites boastful Trump, but rising wages great for GOP Millions should march on DC to defeat Trump Republicans MORE (I-Vt.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinMenendez to regain spot as top Foreign Relations Dem US could reinstate security assistance if Pakistan takes 'decisive' steps Cardin files to run for third term MORE (D-Md.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyPentagon: War in Afghanistan will cost billion in 2018 Trump has declared war on our climate — we won’t let him win Lawmakers left with more questions than answers on Trump infrastructure plan MORE (D-Ore.), Conrad altered his plan over the last week by embracing the 50-50 tax increases/spending cuts approach.

That’s a significant move to the left after Obama last month suggested a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. 

Sanders said he was pleased Conrad rewrote the ratios.

“It’s a more progressive budget, and I think it’s a stronger budget, than a week ago,” he said. 

Conrad’s plan is designed to win a majority vote in the Budget Committee, where he cannot afford a single defection given the narrow split of 12 Democrats to 11 Republicans. Democratic aides don’t expect it to win 50 votes on the Senate floor. 

A Democratic aide said it’s necessary for Democrats to move left to strengthen their hand in negotiations with House Republicans. 

Vulnerable Democratic incumbents such as Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGovernment watchdog finds safety gaps in assisted living homes GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races McCaskill challenger links human trafficking to 'sexual revolution' of 1960s MORE (Mo.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrat Manchin: Pence attacks prove ‘they don't want bipartisanship’ in Trump admin Tester invited the Border Patrol Union’s president to the State of the Union. What does that say to Dreamers?   These Democrats will have a hard time keeping their seats in 2018 MORE (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Manchin: Senators should sign pledge not to campaign against each other  GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation MORE (W.Va.) will likely attract Republican attacks if they vote for hundreds of billions in tax increases. 

Conrad is expected to publicly release his budget in the coming days and mark it up next week. 

Sources close to the Gang of Six admit that the group hit a rough patch at the beginning of last week. However, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRegulators push for 'coordinated' approach to bitcoin trading House funding bill includes bipartisan Medicare reforms Overnight Tech: Mulvaney reportedly froze Equifax hack probe | Dems want new restrictions on Comcast-NBC | NJ gov signs net neutrality order | Senate confirms patent chief MORE (D-Va.), the gang’s co-founder, told The Hill Thursday that he is still optimistic about reaching a deal by the end of May.

Members of the Gang of Six met in Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Hoyer: DACA deal a long ways off MORE's (D-Ill.) office Tuesday evening. 

Added to the mix are the different spending projections that have been released by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office and the fiscal commission, creating what Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Overnight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Hatch introduces bipartisan bill to clarify cross-border data policies MORE (D-R.I.) described on Tuesday as “a swirling discussion.”

“Everybody has got a view on how you get the deficit under control, everybody has got a view on how you get the debt down,” Conrad said Tuesday morning. “It is made so much more complicated by all these different baselines. My numbers people on the committee have never seen such a complicated [scenario].”