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Why, after all these years, the Senate is working on a budget (+VIDEO)

Senate Democrats didn't pass a budget resolution for the previous three years, but they are taking steps to do it this year. Three things, in particular, have changed.

Sen. Gillibrand on Dem's rival budget plan
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Ever since 1974, it has been the law of the land that Congress pass an annual budget, yet it has been nearly four years since the US Senate participated in the process. 

Even without this legally mandated budget – a nonbinding roadmap for taxing and spending committees – the government can function.

Moreover, budget resolutions were typically passed at least a month late or, more and more recently, not at all. Congress failed to complete a budget resolution for fiscal years 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012, or 2013.

This week, the Senate starts debate on its first budget resolution to head to the floor since 2009, raising an obvious question:

Why, after all the omissions and delays, is the Senate acting now – and in such an unusually timely way?

Here are the three reasons cited by lawmakers.

No. 1: No budget, no pay

For the first time, senators (and other members of Congress) won’t get paid unless they pass a budget resolution.

The idea of hitting lawmakers in the purse sprung from No Labels, a grass-roots, nonpartisan group that aims to break partisan gridlock in Washington and "make Congress work."

“If you actually have regular order on the budget, even in a divided Congress, both parties put their conceptions of the right course for the country on the table, and that’s good for democracy,” says Bill Galston, a co-founder of No Labels, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and a former domestic policy adviser in the Clinton administration.

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