House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer expressed hope for a budget grand bargain on Tuesday, but he declined to tip off Republicans to the Democrats' negotiating strategy on the eve of the first meeting of House and Senate budget conferees.
"What you've heard me say, I think ad nauseam, is, I'm for a big deal, and everything's on the table," the Maryland Democrat told reporters. "I don't want to get into individual items but I believe that everything needs to be on the table.
"Our experience with negotiating with our Republican colleagues ... is, they will take everything you give, that they like, and then say, 'it's already done,' and [Democrats] get nothing in return," Hoyer continued. "What we got in return in the last crisis was open government and the debt of the American people not being compromised."
A House-Senate budget conference is due to meet Wednesday. As part of the Oct. 16 deal to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, lawmakers also set a Dec. 13 deadline for a budget deal.
Hoyer, who has said his top priority is ending the sequester, specifically deflected queries on whether he would be willing to support changes to how the consumer price index is calculated, also known as "chained CPI." Such a change also would alter the way increases in entitlement benefits are calculated.
Hoyer also wouldn't say whether there were any circumstances under which he would accept a short-term budget deal that didn't include new revenue streams. More taxes and revenue have long been a sticking point in budget negotiations: Democrats want them; Republicans don't.
He did, however, reiterate his hope that revenues would be part of the package and said he was heartened by recent public remarks made by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a budget conferee who said revenue would likely be on the table.
"A big deal is shied away from by most Republicans because they interpret that meaning that it needs to include revenues. I agree with them: It needs to include revenues," Hoyer said. "I've talked to a number of Republicans, a number of Republican conservatives, who believe that revenues will inevitably be part of any large package."