In a stunning backtrack that virtually guaranteesCongress for the third year will be unable to produce a budget, Senate Democrats’ top budget writer Tuesday canceled this week’s expected votes on a 2013 fiscal blueprint.

Instead, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said he will use the next few months to try to breathe life into the shelved 2-year-old BowlesSimpson deficit commission proposal.

Mr. Conrad said he wasn’t going to be able to reach a bipartisan agreement on a budget plan and he decided instead to try to kick-start a longer-term debate.

“This is the wrong time to vote in the committee. This is the wrong time to vote on the floor,” Mr. Conrad told reporters as he announced his strategy. “We do need to try to maximize the chance as we get closer to all the tax cuts expiring and the sequester being imposed that we’re ready to act.”

He said he will still convene the Budget Committee this week and introduce his plan, but won’t hold any votes or debate any amendments.

His move stunned Senate Republicans, who had been preparing amendments for Wednesday and Thursday.

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