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Senate narrowly approves Democratic budget

Caption  In this photo taken Friday, March 22, 2013, the setting sun is reflected in the windows of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. An exhausted Senate gave pre-dawn approval Saturday, March 23, 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. (AP Photo

Associated Press

Caption In this photo taken Friday, March 22, 2013, the setting sun is reflected in the windows of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. An exhausted Senate gave pre-dawn approval Saturday, March 23, 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. (AP Photo

WASHINGTON — After a rare all-night debate, and a frenzy of last-minute amendments that aides dubbed the vote-a-rama, the Democrat-controlled Senate adopted its first budget blueprint in four years by a one-vote margin before dawn Saturday.

The 50-49 final vote came just before 5 a.m., a dramatic legislative lollapalooza in a stately chamber chiefly populated by men and women fast approaching Medicare age. Congress now adjourns for a two-week Easter recess.

Like the far more austere Republican budget approved by the House last week, the Democratic version that passed the Senate is a partisan document that sets out the party's vision but does not have the force of law.

The $3.7 trillion Democratic blueprint for 2014 would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, trim spending modestly, and invest new revenue to build infrastructure and tamp down the federal deficit. Under the plan, the government would still be in the red a decade from now.

Passage of the plan sets the stage for contentious negotiations with the House and the White House next month over how to reconcile the two vastly dissimilar blueprints. The GOP plan is far to the right of President Barack Obama's views on the federal budget, while the Democratic version falls to his left.

The White House applauded the vote, saying in a statement that the plan "will create jobs and cut the deficit in a balanced way. Like the president's plan, the Senate budget cuts wasteful spending, makes tough choices to strengthen entitlements, and eliminates special tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthiest Americans to reduce the deficit."

The House Republican budget, the statement said, "refuses to ask for a single dime of deficit reduction from closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and the well-connected but instead makes deep cuts to education and manufacturing while asking seniors and the middle class to pay more. That's not an approach we support and it's not an approach the majority of the American people support."

Republicans marked the occasion by hammering Democrats for finally passing a budget after four years.

"It's about time," said a one-line news release from the House GOP whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.

No Republicans voted for the plan. Four red state Democrats who face re-election next year opposed it, leading to the squeaker of a final vote. The four Democrats were Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagen of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana.

"While there are clear areas of disagreement about how to strengthen our economy and restore our nation's fiscal health," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Budget Committee, "this was a productive conversation and one I hope we can build on in the coming weeks."

.fast facts

Holder fends off furloughs

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder says he has averted daily furloughs of 3,570 federal prison staffers around the country, moving $150 million from other Justice Department accounts to stave off a serious threat to the lives and safety of correctional staff, inmates and the public. Some 38,000 employees at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons supervise 176,000 inmates at 119 institutions, ensuring security and providing

prisoners with needed programs.

Associated Press

Senate narrowly approves Democratic budget 03/23/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 23, 2013 10:57pm]
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