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Even the president’s supporters say his budget isn’t likely to advance big-ticket proposals in an election year with a divided Congress. Its main value, they say, is in drawing the lines of debate about the nation’s priorities leading up to the November election.

“There’s very little chance that anything big or significant is going to get enacted,” said James Horney, vice president for federal fiscal policy at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “What’s most likely is we’ll have a lively debate. It’s valid for the president to put out [an agenda] and say, ‘Here’s a crucial issue and here’s how I think we should deal with it.’ “

Mr. Horney praised the president’s approach toward gradual deficit reduction “in a way that allows that we have enough resources to meet the needs of the country.”

He said the budget will become important in the fall as lawmakers decide the appropriations for various programs, because many of Mr. Obama’s requests for specific spending levels will win the day.

But the impact of Mr. Obama’s previous budgets has been diluted by the Senate’s failure to adopt them. Senate Republicans point out that Democratic leaders haven’t approved a budget in more than 1,000 days, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he won’t bring up the new budget for a floor vote.

Mr. Reid said there is no need to do this because the agreement last summer on raising the debt ceiling set spending levels for this year.

On CNN, Mr. Lew blamed Senate Republicans for the failure to pass budgets. “You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes,” he said.

Mr. Lew’s statement is incorrect, however. Although many details of an approved budget may take 60 votes, the budget itself requires only 51 votes, or just 50 with a friendly vice president, to pass.

Regardless, Mr. Holtz-Eakin, president of the nonprofit American Action Forum, said the federal budget is an important blueprint for the nation’s priorities and that Mr. Obama is failing to use it to set a sustainable, responsible path forward on the biggest questions of the day such as shoring up Social Security and Medicare.

“The budget is the policy of the U.S. government,” said Mr. Holtz-Eakin, who served as chief economist to Republican President George W. Bush and was director of the CBO during Mr. Bush’s presidency. “He’s missing in action. It’s very frustrating.”