Lieberman lukewarm, Blumenthal mum on Senate Dems 2012 budget plan

Senate Democratic leaders unveiled a 2012 budget blueprint Wednesday, discussing the document behind closed doors during a policy lunch.

After emerging from the session, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal declined to comment on the measure, which comes as Congress faces an increasingly tight deadline to craft a debt-and-budget deal.

But Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was happy to offer his view. For starters, he said he still had a lot of “unanswered questions” about the plan, which seeks to save $4 trillion over the next decade with an even mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Lieberman said that element of the proposal—a 50/50 split between spending decreases and tax hikes—might be too “high” for him to accept. “For 50 percent to come from tax increases is a lot,” Lieberman said.

He also expressed concern about proposed cuts in security spending, although he said it was unclear from Wednesday’s presentation how much the proposal would slice from defense funding, as opposed to homeland security and veterans affairs.

And he said Conrad’s proposal to rein in Medicare spending is too timid. “The savings in Medicare over the ten years is quite small–$29 billion–and you need more than that to actually save Medicare,” said Lieberman, who has unveiled his own Medicare overhaul plan.

Even after today’s session, it’s unclear whether Senate Democrats will push the deal forward. Some may be reluctant to throw it into the mix, because the tax hikes in particular will open them up to political attacks from Republicans.

But so will keeping it under wraps. After their closed-door session Wednesday, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, called it a “phantom” budget. “It’s not helpful, to say the least, to have a budget if it’s going to remain secret,” Sessions told reporters.