As the first bicameral, bipartisan budget conference committee gets under way, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said he had both high hopes and tempered expectations.
The Maryland Democrat wants a "big deal," one that would last 10 years — but he's not sure if that's achievable.
"It's certainly not achievable without revenues, in my view," Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing, "and we [Democrats] are for revenues."
Republicans, by and large, are not.
Maybe, Hoyer continued, conferees could move on a spending framework that runs through fiscal 2015 at least, because a budget that only lasts through the remainder of fiscal 2014 is "unacceptable."
The debt limit should be extended through March 31, 2015, Hoyer said, and the sequester should be eliminated.
But the 33-year House veteran conceded that he may not get everything that he wants out of this extensive wish list — or anything at all.
"I am hopeful that the budget conference will be successful," Hoyer said. "Past history tells us it has been very difficult."
Hoyer added that any initial optimism that an agreement could be reached across the aisle and between the two chambers was somewhat diminished by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan's vote against the compromise bill to reopen government and raise the debt limit.
He expressed similar sentiments to CQ Roll Call last week, just hours after the fiscal impasse had been resolved.
“I was very disappointed that Paul Ryan voted against keeping the government open and paying our bills. It was a tough vote, but this time he took a hard-line path,” Hoyer said last week. “I hope after he goes into negotiations with [Senate Budget Chairwoman] Patty Murray and others in the conference, he will take a more constructive, positive solution.”
Budget conferees have until Dec. 13 to come up with a deal, and while the four leaders met for breakfast last week to get the conversation going, formal meetings have yet to be announced.