Conrad outlines draft budget

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is moving forward with his own budget resolution amid signs that the bipartisan Gang of Six talks he has championed are sputtering. 

Conrad briefed his Democratic colleagues Tuesday on a budget resolution he has drafted separately from the Gang of Six talks. A committee markup of the plan could come as soon as Monday.

He said his decision to roll out a Democratic budget should not be interpreted as a sign that the Gang of Six talks have collapsed. 

“There are other ways to deal with what the Group of Six might come up with — you could deal with that outside of a budget resolution,” Conrad said.

But the fact that the negotiations remain ongoing is a disappointment for Conrad, who hoped the group would strike a deal this week in order to influence the deficit talks commencing Thursday under Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Biden spotted at Wizards playoff game Trump’s wall jams GOP in shutdown talks MORE.

The bipartisan Gang of Six — made up of Conrad and Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenators warn of 'dangerous' cuts to International Affairs Budget Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Rob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' MORE (D-Ill.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing Schumer: Senate Russia probe moving too slowly Senate Intel Dem has ‘serious concerns’ on Russia probe MORE (D-Va.), Tom CoburnTom CoburnFreedom Caucus saved Paul Ryan's job: GOP has promises to keep Don't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC Coburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential MORE (R-Okla.), Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissGOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race Democrats go for broke in race for Tom Price's seat Spicer: Trump will 'help the team' if needed in Georgia special election MORE (R-Ga.) and Mike CrapoMike CrapoBattle begins over Wall Street rules Lawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick MORE (R-Idaho) — has been meeting for weeks to try and hash out a long-term solution to the budget deficit. 

The group met again Tuesday after a long negotiating session on Monday. Conrad, Durbin and Coburn did not appear upbeat when the round of talks ended. 

“Like any negotiation, some hours you’re up, and some hours you are not,” Conrad said.

Conrad said his draft budget achieves $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years — the same as the president’s fiscal commission. President Obama proposed $3 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years in a speech last month.

The budget resolution already passed by the House cuts $5.8 trillion in spending over 10 years, transforms Medicare and does not include tax increases. Democrats have declared it dead on arrival in the Senate.

Conrad said his draft draws heavily on the fiscal commission’s ideas and includes tax-code reform that eliminates deductions while lowering rates. It also allocates new revenue for deficit reduction.

The Budget chairman said there would be some savings from entitlements in his plan. Like the president, Conrad proposes paying for the so-called “doc fix,” under which Congress routinely avoids reducing physician payments under Medicare, without offsetting the added expenditures.

He said he would not emulate Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a kind of voucher system, which Conrad described as “shredding” the program. Conrad’s draft does not touch Social Security.

The budget resolution will move through the Budget Committee, Conrad said, contrary to the worries of some Republicans that it would head straight to a floor vote.

Budget Committee ranking member Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsHouse panel refers Clinton server company for prosecution Sessions to keep up fight on sanctuary cities despite legal setback Suspended Alabama judge running for Senate MORE (R-Ala.) said Conrad told him to expect a committee markup next Monday, but that there would not be advance copies available for a briefing. He said this is a sign that Conrad’s will be a partisan budget.

After being briefed on Conrad’s plan, fiscal conservative Democrats seemed pleased. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general MORE (D-W.Va.), who has called on Democrats to embrace spending cuts, said he liked much of what he saw.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) has warned Democrats not to sign on to any budget plan until the outcome of talks with Republicans and the administration over the debt ceiling become clear. 

Reid noted that the Conrad effort is only one of several budget options on the table, including the president’s 2012 plan and the possible Gang of Six compromise.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellHundreds of former EPA employees blast Trump on climate change Democrats must have a better response on net neutrality than simply 'no' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ky.) expressed optimism that the talks led by Biden will lead to a viable compromise.

“Those talks are beginning Thursday and will, in my view, lead to some kind of conclusion because, as you know, the clock is ticking,” McConnell said.

This story was updated at 7:39 p.m.