Top congressional budget negotiators insist this time will be diferent

McClatchy Washington BureauOctober 17, 2013 

Top budget negotiators met for breakfast Thursday morning, and insisted this time would be different.

After all, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., top House Budget Committee Democrat, "not talking guarantees failure. Talking doesn't guarantee success, but if you don't get together, obviously, you can't move forward."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, agreed.  "There's a lot we can do, number of things I know we can agree on and I hope we could agree on," he said.

"We don't want to raise expectations above reality, but I think there are some things we could do"

Democrats and Republicans disagree on spending levels for discretionary items, or items Congress can largely control. Republicans want to spend at roughly $967 billion this year; Democrats are about $90 billion higher.

The last time the two parties tried long-range budget talks in 2011, the supercommittee got nowhere.

Don't compare the two, said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

"The supercommittee goals were much broader, much larger. We have a challenge that's been handed us to have a reconciliation between the Senate budget and the House budget, and those issues are all on the table," she said.

"We'll be talking about all of them. And our job is to make sure that we have put forward a spending cap and a budget path for this Congress in the next year or two or further if we can."

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., had similar thoughts.

"It's too premature to get into numbers. We're just starting our discussions. But let's understand what we're doing here. We're going back to regular order. This is the budget process," he said.


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