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Budget Conference Would Be No Slam Dunk

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Ryan said he believes the House and Senate will go to conference on the budget, though many people say a deal still wouldn’t be easy.

Whenever the dust settles on the debt and government shutdown crises, the House and Senate appear likely to embark on a new round of budget talks under the auspices of a now-rare bicameral conference committee.

“Well, we’ve always talked about going to conference. Once [House Democrats] dropped their motions to instruct, that gives us the ability to go to conference on budget. That’s something that’s going to happen irrespective of how this goes down I think,” said House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

But reconciling the budget resolutions passed by each chamber earlier this year will be no easier than any of the previous failed efforts to get a broader “grand bargain,” including the supercommittee after the 2011 debt limit deal. Still, even Senate Democrats acknowledge that if anyone in the House Republican Conference could strike a big deal, it might be Ryan — assuming he’s willing to help muster a majority of GOP votes for the endeavor.

Ryan and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., have been trying to lay the groundwork for a deal since the beginning of the year, but so far their informal talks have not borne fruit. But they could be forced to formalize those talks if the Senate moves forward with its proposal to reopen the government, raise the debt ceiling and create a budget conference deadline of Dec. 13.

The budget framework adopted by the Senate calls for almost $1 trillion in new revenue, while the House’s Ryan budget seeks a broad overhaul of entitlement programs that has been panned by Democrats.

On those fronts, nothing has changed since the spring, one Senate Republican aide suggested.

“The question is will they insist again on more revenue and refuse to acknowledge the significant problems facing America’s entitlements as part of budget talks?” the aide asked of the Democrats.

Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, a liberal independent who caucuses with the Democrats, sits on the Budget Committee and could be among the negotiators pushing for new tax money.

“When we look at the budget, it should not only be about how you cut entitlements or how you cut programs [for] vulnerable people. It also has to include how we create millions of jobs in this country, how we raise wages for low-wage workers,” Sanders said before agreeing that Democrats and Republicans will be totally at odds on revenue.

“One out of four corporations in this country do not pay any federal income taxes,” Sanders said. “Clearly, that’s an absurdity that has to be addressed and be part of that negotiation.”

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