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Ryan budget, passed in House, becomes political weapon for both sides

Ryan budget is dead on arrival in the Senate, but is expected to play strong in 2012 races. Democrats say it wrecks Medicare, Republicans say they are willing to make tough decisions.

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio takes questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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House Republicans passed a $3.53 trillion budget for the coming fiscal year on Thursday headlined by GOP priorities such as sharply lower taxes and a greater role for the private sector in Medicare. The measure, which aims to cut $3 trillion more over the next decade than President Obama's budget, advanced 228 to 191, without a single Democratic vote.

But as the GOP budget exits the House, it's likely hit its zenith as a viable budget plan. Now, it becomes a dead letter on the steps of the Senate and a political sledgehammer for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada has said the upper chamber will use the caps imposed by last summer’s debt-ceiling deal as guidelines for its spending this year and therefore doesn’t need a budget. That would make the coming year the third in a row where the Senate has eschewed a formal budget, which Senate leadership believes could set up tough votes for Democrats seeking reelection in 2012.

Politically, both parties are hoping to use the budget as a central part of their campaign messaging in the November elections.

For Republicans, the goal is to contrast the GOP’s leadership and willingness to make tough decisions on the nation’s long-term financial problems with what they allege is the fecklessness of the Democrat-held and budget-less Senate.

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