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Senior Democrat says Senate to finally pass a budget

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) addresses the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Septembe
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) addresses the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Septembe

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats for the first time in more than three years will pass a budget, a senior Democratic lawmaker said on Sunday, fulfilling a basic task that Republicans have been urging them to do.

Senator Charles Schumer said, however, the spending plan will include proposed new revenue despite Republican warnings that they will not go along with any more tax increases.

"We're going to do a budget this year and it is going to have revenue in it, and Republicans ought to get used to that," Schumer of New York, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, told NBC's "Meet the Press."

President Barack Obama's Democrats control the Senate, but have not passed a budget since 2010 amid disagreements within the party over possible spending cuts, particularly in entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

This has drawn the ire of Republicans who accuse them of a dereliction of duty that has undermined efforts to reduce spending and the U.S. debt.

Washington is expected to reach the limit of its $16.4 trillion borrowing power by early March, and lifting the debt ceiling will allow the federal government to continue its work uninterrupted.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, in a major concession on Friday, said they would be willing to raise the debt limit for three months and, at the same time, drop their demand that any increase in the government's borrowing power be matched in spending cuts.

But Republicans said they would require the Senate to finally pass a budget that could include spending reductions as well as changes in the tax code.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, appearing on NBC with Schumer, called the House Republican plan "a step in the right direction" and accused the Democratic-led Senate of not doing its job.

Schumer called the House Republican offer "a major victory" for Obama, who has vowed to refuse to negotiate with Congress on the debt limit.

Besides, Schumer said, "We need a budget .... It's a great opportunity to get us some more revenues."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he is ready to focus on spending cuts in any budget negotiations, but considers tax increases a closed matter. The White House had said it would accept the three-month plan so long as it was not conditioned on spending cuts.

After the deadline for the debt ceiling increase, Congress faces a March 1 deadline to avert automatic spending cuts and a March 27 expiration of funding for government agencies and programs that could result in a partial federal shutdown.

A three-month debt limit extension would add a further deadline in April or May.

The recent separate deal between Congress and the White House to avert "the fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases on most Americans and severe spending cuts imposed a tax hike on many of the wealthiest Americans.

It renewed most tax cuts enacted by Republican President George W. Bush, but allowed those tax cuts on families with incomes of more than $450,000 to expire.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Jackie Frank and Vicki Allen)

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