The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

March 23, 2013

Senate Democratic budget extends standoff with GOP

WASHINGTON — An exhausted Senate gave pre-dawn approval Saturday to a Democratic $3.7 trillion budget for next year that embraces nearly $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade but shelters domestic programs targeted for cuts by House Republicans.

While their victory was by a razor-thin 50-49 vote, it allowed Democrats to tout their priorities. Yet it doesn’t resolve the deep differences the two parties have over deficits and the size of government.

Joining all Republicans voting no were four Democrats who face re-election next year in potentially difficult races: Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., did not vote.

White House spokesman Jay Carney praised the Senate plan, saying in a statement it “will create jobs and cut the deficit in a balanced way.”

While calling on both sides to find common ground, Carney did not hold out much hope for compromise with Republicans. The rival budget passed by the GOP-led House cuts social programs too deeply, he said, and fails “to ask for a single dime of deficit reduction from closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected.”

The Senate vote came after lawmakers labored through the night on scores of symbolic amendments, ranging from voicing support for letting states collect taxes on Internet sales to expressing opposition to requiring photo IDs for voters.

Final approval came at around 5 a.m. EDT, capping an extraordinary 20 hours of votes and debate. As the night wore on, virtually all senators remained in the chamber, a rarity during a normal business day. But at that hour, most had nowhere else to go.

The Senate’s budget would shrink annual federal shortfalls over the next decade to nearly $400 billion, raise unspecified taxes by $975 billion and cull modest savings from domestic programs.

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