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Sen. Conrad: GOP suffers from ‘convenient amnesia’ on budget matters

Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) accused his Republican colleagues of having "convenient amnesia" when claiming that the Senate has not passed a budget in more than 1,000 days.

"Our friends have convenient amnesia. It's good talking points, but the fact is we have a budget in place for this year and next. We have 10 years of spending caps and a special committee was given the opportunity to deal with entitlements and revenue without the threat of filibuster," said Conrad on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.

GOP members of Congress have repeatedly hammered Senate Democrats for failing to pass a budget, accusing their colleagues of shirking responsibility in a time of rising deficits and fiscal insecurity. 

“I do believe that a party that is incapable now for 1,000 days of producing a budget does not deserve to be the leader of Congress,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said last month. 

Republicans used the 1,000-day mark, which fell on Jan. 24, the same day as President Obama's State of the Union address, to highlight their frustrations with the opposing side of the aisle. 

Conrad argued Monday, though, that the Budget Control Act, which was passed last August, is in "many ways stronger" than a budget resolution.

"I'm most disturbed when my colleagues slip into the political in order to mislead people that there's no plan in place, that nothing has been done to limit spending, because it's just not true," Conrad said.

Sessions rejected Conrad's view of the Budget Control Act, arguing that the spending caps in the law were pushed through at the 11th hour and crafted behind closed doors.

"They are not in any way or any sense a Senate Democrat budget plan," said Sessions in a statement earlier this month.

"For three straight years, Senate Democrats are deciding not to bring forward a budget. For three straight years, they want to spend taxpayer dollars without offering a spending plan to the American people. For three straight years, they want to hike taxes without delivering a long-term vision for where the money should go,” said a Sessions spokesman in a statement to The Hill on Monday.

“If the Democrat-controlled Senate has somewhere a budget plan they believe in then why, for three straight years, will they keep it from the sunshine of a public vote?"

Conrad told MSNBC that the legislation created 10 years of spending caps and granted a special committee "extraordinary powers" to provide a plan on revenue and entitlement spending.

Despite the authority granted by the Budget Control Act, the deficit-reduction supercommittee failed to reach agreement last November, which put in motion automatic, across-the-board cuts set to take effect in 2013. 

Conrad made a similar pitch last month, slamming congressional Republicans for "misrepresenting" the budget issue to the public for political gain.

The North Dakota senator said that as chairman of the Budget Committee he plans to present a 10-year budget plan to deal with entitlements.

Conrad, who was a member of Obama's fiscal commission and the Senate "Gang of Six," said he "was proud to be a part of those efforts" and would "borrow heavily" from conclusions drawn from those groups in his own proposal.

The senator said mark-up for the plan would come in March or April.

—This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a response from a Sessions spokesman.

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