Policy

Paul Ryan Wants Budget Conference (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:42 p.m. | House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Thursday morning that he intends to go to conference on the budget, signaling the end to one of the year's greatest impasses between the two parties and chambers.

"We're gonna start negotiations," Ryan said. "I intend to go to conference.

"I think when Leader Pelosi said that they would remove all the motions to instruct, that was a good-faith effort to get serious negotiations going," he continued. "We intend to go to conference on that. As you know, a budget resolution is not sufficient to do all that we need to do, but it's a step in the right direction."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., flanked by other members of Democratic leadership, announced Oct. 5 that her party was prepared to forfeit its right to offer "motions to instruct" should Republicans name conferees to merge the House and Senate budgets. That removed the threat of forcing Republicans having to take numerous politically difficult but nonbinding votes.

Speaker John A. Boehner made mention of a budget conference as part of an overall offer to President Barack Obama that would extend the debt ceiling for six weeks but not reopen the government.

"What we're going to do is offer the president the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling [and] an agreement to go to conference on the budget for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and start to deal with America's pressing problems," the Ohio Republican said.

Senate Democrats have held the position that both the debt ceiling and the current government shutdown must be addressed before moving into broader negotiations on the top-line spending levels for fiscal 2014 and other budgetary changes.

"We think the only way out of this cycle of constant crises is for the two sides to work together, make some compromises, and get to a fair and responsible long term deal," Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray said Wednesday. "But it just doesn’t make sense to do that while families and communities are being hurt by this government shutdown and while the threat of a default hangs over our head."

The Washington Democrat made the comments on the Senate floor while making yet another request for a budget conference committee upon action to avert a default and get the government funded.

"We will sit down and negotiate over anything Republicans want, and we pledge to work as hard as we can, for as long as it takes until we get a fair long-term budget deal to end these constant crises. But first, this current crisis needs to end and the threat of the next one needs to be lifted," Murray said. "Republicans don't need a hostage, there are plenty of things Democrats want out of a long term deal that we are very interested in making some compromises for."

Update 3:42 p.m.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt raised another issue with the idea: the calendar.

Blunt, a member of the Senate Republican leadership as well as an appropriator, said he thought the time had already passed for a fiscal 2014 budget resolution.

"Paul Ryan's the Budget chairman, so ... he would have his own view of this. My view of it is we're beyond the time when a budget resolution does any good," Blunt said. "The reason for a budget resolution is to have guidelines and points of order when you should be passing the appropriations bills in a normal way."

"We're so far beyond that, that I'd have a hard time seeing why that ... moves this discussion much," Blunt added.

House and Senate appropriators would need an agreed on budget allocation to complete work on fiscal 2014 spending bills. While a budget resolution would provide that number, it would not be unusual for the two chambers to "deem" a budget figure.