Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) has shelved plans to hold a committee vote on a 2013 budget this week because he couldn't get enough members of his own party to back him.
In a stunning backtrack that virtually guarantees Congress for the third year will be unable to produce a budget, Senate Democrats' top budget writer Tuesday canceled this week's expected votes on a 2013 fiscal blueprint.
Instead, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said he will use the next few months to try to breathe life into the shelved 2-year-old Bowles-Simpson deficit commission proposal.
Mr. Conrad said he wasn't able to get enough Democrats to back a fiscal 2013 budget, much less reach a bipartisan agreement, and that he decided instead to try to kick-start a longer-term debate.
"This is the wrong time to vote in the committee. This is the wrong time to vote on the floor," Mr. Conrad told reporters as he announced his strategy. "We do need to try to maximize the chance as we get closer to all the tax cuts expiring and the sequester being imposed that we're ready to act."
He said he will still convene the Budget Committee this week and introduce his plan, but won't hold any votes or debate any amendments.
His move stunned Senate Republicans, who had been preparing amendments for Wednesday and Thursday.
"It's hard to negotiate with somebody who won't tell you where they are," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, who said Mr. Conrad was breaking a promise he made to debate and vote on a budget.
Hanging over the discussion is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who had steadfastly said he would not bring a budget to the floor this year -- and who, Republicans said, pressured Mr. Conrad into complying.
Simpson-Bowles is a non starter. It was dead on arrival last year and no attempts at resuscitation will breathe any life into it. Conrad is simply trying to find a graceful exit for himself now that Harry Reid has put the kibosh on any budget votes this year.