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Federal budget

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Senate Democrats and House Republicans have passed their respective versions of a budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 that reflect widely differing philosophies of government and spending for the next 10 years.

For the first time in four years, the Senate narrowly passed a budget after an all-night session that capped 20 hours of debates and mostly symbolic votes on hundreds of amendments .

The $3.7 trillion blueprint calls for $975 billion in higher taxes over the next decade by ending some tax breaks for the wealthy combined with spending cuts of $875 billion to defense, farm subsidies and other programs. Most of the savings would finance repeal of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as sequestration that just went into effect.

The proposal would shrink the annual deficit to about $400 million over the next 10 years but not balance the budget as the Republican plan would. The Senate proposal includes $100 million on infrastructure spending to stimulate job creation.

Dismissing the Senate plan, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out ... won’t become law.”

In contrast the House plan presented by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would save $4.6 trillion and balance the budget over the next 10 years without raising taxes. It would, though, require massive cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and transform Medicare from a fee-based system to a voucher-like program for those now younger than 55. It also calls for repealing Obamacare, which is a nonstarter for Democrats. Republicans also balk at raising taxes on the wealthy after acquiescing to a tax increase in January.

The congressional plans are the same approaches that have failed to achieve a spending plan in past few years — Democrats looking for higher taxes on the wealthy to finance more spending and Republicans seeking tax cuts along with deep reductions in spending on social programs.

President Obama is expected to present his budget proposal in early April. His plan is being watched for an indication of changes he is willing to accept in entitlement programs such as Medicare to slow the growth of federal spending.

Neither of the congressional blueprints will make it into law.

The American people expect President Obama and both parties in Congress to overcome their bitter partisanship and work together in the next six months to have a budget in place Oct. 1.

Americans have had enough of the gridlock that has resulted in repeated debates over the debt ceiling (which will come up again this summer), the threat of government shutdowns posed by the need for continuing resolutions in the absence of a budget and now the costs of sequestration.

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