House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., paid a visit to Senate Republicans Wednesday afternoon to update them on the status of the budget conference, apparently with nothing earth-shattering to report.
"Just an update on where things were. It was pretty, pretty bland," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. "No news."
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was asked about the House chairman's level of optimism that a deal will be reached, to which he responded: "He seemed like they were talking and he thought they might get something done, but I don’t think anyone is ... placing big bets."
"I am in close contact with Chairman Paul Ryan and our conferees. And I think there is genuine interest on both sides to reach an agreement. It won't be easy. And both sides have to be willing to step out of our partisan corners to get a deal," Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said on a Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force conference call earlier Wednesday.
"I wouldn't say they're any closer than the day they started," Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., said after the GOP meeting, striking a rather negative tone.
"You've got, you know, several weeks left in the talks and I think Republicans have made the promise that government shutdown's not an option," Burr said. "So, it's a question of whether you get a deal or whether you extend for the balance of the fiscal year at current levels."
"Fortunately, replacing sequestration is one area where Democrats and many Republicans agree. So the very least we should be able to do in this budget conference is fairly and responsibly replace the automatic cuts that slash investments in education, our military and our economy," Murray said.
While maintaining the post-sequester spending levels for the Defense Department, as well as domestic spending, would create its own problems, Burr suggested an agreement on top-line numbers for two years worth of appropriations bills, long favored by appropriators in both parties, didn't seem plausible.
"I don't think that's even in the realm of conversation," Burr said. "I think one would probably define it as a small deal, if they get a deal."
Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.