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23 Mar, 2013 12:34

All-night ‘vote-a-rama’: Senate passes its first federal budget in four years

All-night ‘vote-a-rama’: Senate passes its first federal budget in four years

After grueling debate on the Senate floor, Congress narrowly adopted a controversial $3.7 trillion budget plan that is unlikely do what so many people want: get the US government out of debt.

Bringing together a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, the much-anticipated budget squeaked out the doors of the Democrat-controlled upper house by a margin of 50-49.

The new budget, however, could barely be labeled a success for the Democrats: no Republicans voted for the Senate plan, while four Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana all voted against it, saying the legislation does not go far enough towards taming US spending.

The resolution anticipates a deficit of $566 billion in 2023.

The so-called Murray budget, named after Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, calls for an immediate supply-side injection of $100 billion dollars to jump-start the US economy, as well as a halt to $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration.

The plan also proposes to raise nearly $1 trillion in new tax revenue over the next 10 years by closing tax loopholes on wealthy Americans.

Naturally, such proposed measures have attracted the wrath of Republicans and their wealthy constituents, which include many influential corporations with deep pockets.

Passage of the Democratic plan sets up a political showdown with the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, which passed its own budget plan on Thursday.

The so-called Ryan plan, named after Senator Paul Ryan, calls for deep cuts to government spending without the prospect of raising taxes, as well as axing ‘Obamacare’, the cornerstone of the Democratic leader’s presidency.

"The House budget changes our debt course, while the Senate budget does not," said Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

In an effort to appease their right-wing opponents, the Democrats’ budget proposes to limit spending cuts on the Pentagon, the one government institution that the Republican Party does not mind inflating.

The Senate Budget Chairwoman kept the focus on job growth and assisting those members of American society suffering most from the economic downturn.

“The first priority of the Senate budget is creating jobs and economic growth from the middle out, not the top down,” Murray told lawmakers in defending her budget plan. “With an unemployment rate than remains stubbornly high, and a middle class that has seen their wages stagnate for far too long, we simply cannot afford any threats to our fragile recovery.”

Although neither the Democrat nor Republican plan will likely become law, the dual proposals will lead to another round of congressional debates that could eventually lead to a budget bill acceptable to both parties before heading to the desk of the US president.

Passage of the Murray budget came after an all-night marathon vote that saw Senators debate some 562 filed amendments that they hope to see attached to the new budget.