House and Senate negotiators appear to be nearing an agreement that would set government funding levels for the next two years – and avoid another shutdown come January. As always, the devil will be in as-yet-undisclosed details.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. discusses the unfinished work of Congress and the struggle for Republican and Democratic budget negotiators to reach a compromise, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday. She is joined by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Washington
Don’t exhale just yet, but it looks as if a budget deal to avert a government shutdown in January is taking shape.
The agreement is still as wiggly as Jell-O, and plenty of disagreements could cause it to slide off the plate. But after enduring the first government shutdown in 17 years, no federal budget in four years, and worse-than-dismal public approval ratings for Congress, lawmakers are eager to strike a deal as soon as next week – and then enjoy the holidays without the prospect of another budget showdown next month.
By: Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
December 5, 2013 07:25 PM EST
Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray are only a few billion dollars in budgetary savings away from a deal that would set spending levels and blunt the impact of across-the-board spending cuts for the next two years, according to sources close to the negotiations.
But hurdles remain, as finding those few billion dollars is difficult in an already tight federal budget.
Ryan and Murray — who chair the House and Senate Budget committees respectively — will work through the weekend to try to craft the ever-elusive budget agreement. Their self-imposed deadline is Dec. 13, which is next Friday. After then, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vows he will send the House home for Christmas with or without a budget agreement.
Top House Democrats are unhappy with elements of an emerging budget deal that they say abandons the party’s principles.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top House Democrat on the budget conference committee, is upset that the budget deal might not include a call for new taxes. The framework, being negotiated by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), would likely raise revenue from fee increases.
Van Hollen said such an arrangement amounts to abandoning the middle class.
The power players in the Maryland congressional delegation are pressuring Democratic leaders to oppose any new cuts affecting federal workers as part of a budget deal.
The lawmakers, who hold prominent spots in both chambers and represent thousands of federal employees, have long argued that those workers have been hit disproportionately amid efforts to cut deficit spending.
In their weekly meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), several ranking members of prominent committees made clear Wednesday that they oppose any new cuts for federal workers.“Federal employees have become the whipping folks whenever there’s a need for money or some kind of offset,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a participant in the meeting, said afterward. “I think it’s totally unfair, and I think you would hear that from most of us from Maryland and Virginia.” Continue reading “Md.’s Democratic power players leading push against cuts to federal workers”
Democrats: No Budget Deal Without Unemployment Insurance Extension (ABC News)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House and its Democratic allies are pushing to continue a jobless benefits program set to expire for over a million long-term unemployed without congressional intervention. And while whispers persisted this week that Congress could be close to a budget deal before their holiday break, today Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her party’s negotiators were insistent on an extension as a bargaining chip.
“Yes, indeed, we are making a very clear statement that we cannot, cannot support a budget agreement that does not include unemployment insurance in the budget or as a sidebar in order to move it all along,” she said at a Democrats-only hearing on the uninsured. “It would undermine who we are as a country.”