UPDATE 2-U.S. Senate narrowly passes first budget in four years

Sat Mar 23, 2013 6:18am EDT
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* Four Democrats oppose their party's budget in 50-49 vote

* Passage of Senate plan shifts fiscal debate away from deadlines

* Possible fight over U.S. debt ceiling looms in summer

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Saturday 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 anticipated summer showdown over raising the debt ceiling.

The budget plan was passed by a 50-49 vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Four Democratic senators facing tough re-election campaigns in 2014 joined all the Senate Republicans in opposing the measure, which seeks to raise nearly $1 trillion in new tax revenues by closing some tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Senate budget, which reflects Democratic priorities of boosting near-term job growth and preserving social safety net programs, 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 U.S. deficits and grow the economy. But they give each party a platform from which to tout their respective fiscal visions.

The Democrats' plan from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray aims to reduce deficits by $1.85 trillion over 10 years through an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts.   Continued...