25 Mar 2013

Senate narrowly passes budget after marathon vote

1:00 pm on 25 March 2013

The United States Senate has narrowly passed its first federal budget in four years - a move that will usher in a relative lull in Washington's fiscal wars until an expected showdown over raising the debt ceiling later this year.

The Senate budget plan passed on a 50-49 vote at about 5am on Saturday after a marathon voting session in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Four Democratic senators facing re-election in 2014 joined all Senate Republicans in opposing the measure, which seeks to raise nearly $US1 trillion in new tax revenues by closing some tax breaks for the wealthy, Reuters reports.

The budget, which reflects Democratic priorities of boosting near-term job growth and preserving social safety net programmes, will square off in coming months against a Republican-focused budget passed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Neither of the non-binding blueprints has a chance of passage in the opposing chamber, leaving Congress no closer to resolving deep differences over how to shrink US deficits and grow the economy. But they give each party a platform from which to tout their respective fiscal visions.

The Democrats' plan is aimed at reducing deficits by $US1.85 trillion over 10 years through an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts.

The Republicans' plan seeks $US4.6 trillion in savings over the same period without raising new taxes. It aims to reach a small surplus by 2023 through deep cuts to healthcare and social programs that aid the elderly and poor.

Under the February debt limit increase law, members of both the House and Senate face pay suspensions if their chambers fail to pass a budget by 15 April.