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Republicans and Democrats begin budget duel universes apart (+video)

The Republican budget would slash health care and save the Pentagon; the Democratic plan would trim the Pentagon and add tax revenue. But Washington is still hopeful a deal can be done.

Dems and GOP remain far apart on budget
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House Republicans and Senate Democrats laid out their budget principles on Tuesday, leaving Americans in no doubt that the differences between the two parties are as stark as ever.

Republicans tore into President Obama’s health-care reform law and shielded the Pentagon from planned cuts, while Democrats will propose adding tax revenue and cutting defense spending, according to a source.

And this is how Mr. Obama and party leaders hope to solve the nation’s long-running battle over its financial future?

Given the hugely divergent views offered on Capitol Hill Tuesday, why does anyone in Washington think that the budget process holds any promise at all?

The answer is that it is the last untried avenue for resolving the fiscal debate that has gripped Washington since 2009.

Senate Democrats have not offered a budget plan of their own since 2009, which has prevented "normal order" – the process by which House Republicans and Senate Democrats lay out their priorities in separate bills and then hammer out a compromise.

Now, that is at least a possibility. But even if this formal process fails, Washington will have at least begun the debate about the nation’s finances well in advance the next debt-ceiling deadline this summer. That could give Washington time to hash out a solution to some of its most intractable differences before another white-knuckled trip to the edge of a financial abyss.

The president “feels that it would be helpful for the Congress to try and reconcile their differences, and he certainly would be party to that process,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D) of Maryland after Obama's meeting with Senate Democrats Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody expects that’s going to happen in a quick time frame, but ultimately if we’re able to be successful [in fixing the nation’s finances], we have to reconcile the two budgets.”

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