Senate Dems still mulling whether to move Conrad budget

After being briefed on a new Democratic budget plan by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Democrats are still “discussing” whether to move that resolution to the floor.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that leaders are weighing the “pros and cons” of holding a vote, but said “the caucus supports” the plan.

He also added that the support “may not be unanimous.” He anticipates critics will blast the plan for relying too much on tax increases.

Durbin said Conrad's budget proposal does not touch Social Security and has a "very small" 10-year effect on Medicaid. "It does not savage it," he said. The Illinois Democrat also noted that the House-passed budget cuts Medicaid spending in half. 

Durbin said that the plan's cuts to Medicare are only $29 billion over 10 years, but later said he was unsure if that number was correct.

The Conrad budget calls for reform of trillions in tax expenditures but leaves it to the Senate Finance Committee to determine which tax breaks should go.

The budget plan is 50 percent tax increases and includes an increase of taxes on couples making more than $1 million per year. 

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said after the meeting that he still has too many questions about the budget to commit to voting for it. He said he supports Conrad making the budget public.

Libermann said he is concerned about the level of security cuts in the resolution, and worried reforms to Medicare do not go far enough to save the program. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Budget Committee, said he and other committee Democrats want to see a vote soon on the budget resolution because it offers an alternative to the House-passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).