Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he expected little more from the formal House-Senate budget conference than some relief from automatic spending cuts under sequestration.
The Nevada Democrat called the suggestion of a "grand bargain" including an overhaul of entitlement programs "happy talk."
"I hope that we can do some stuff to get rid of sequestration and go on to do some sensible budgets — budgeteering. I've got a wonderful leader of my Budget Committee, Patty Murray from the state of Washington, and I feel pretty comfortable that she'll do a good job for us, but ... I hope there would be a grand bargain, but I don't see that happening," Reid said on Nevada radio station KNPR.
Murray and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., are set to convene the first formal meeting of the budget conference committee on Oct. 30.
"On sequestration, we've done one year of sequestration. It has been brutal," Reid said, citing billions of dollars in cuts to the National Institutes of Health.
Reid's comments underscore the ongoing disagreement between the parties about new revenue as part of a larger deal.
"The only people who feel there shouldn't be more coming in to the federal government from the rich people are the Republicans in the Congress," Reid said. "Everybody else, including the rich people, are willing to pay more. They want to pay more."
Reid rebuked the Nevada Public Radio host when he was asked what Republicans would have to concede to get Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table.
"You keep talking about Medicare and Social Security. Get something else in your brain. Stop talking about that. That is not going to happen this time. There is not going to be a grand bargain," Reid said. "What we need to do is have Murray and her counterpart in the House, Ryan, work together to come up with something to get out of this senseless sequestration and start the budgeting process so that we can do normal appropriation bills."
Reid said Republicans would have to agree to more tax revenue to get anywhere near a bigger deal.
"They have their mind set on doing nothing, nothing more on revenue, and until they get off that kick, there's not going to be a grand bargain on — there's not going to be a small bargain," Reid said. "We're just going to have to do something to work our way through sequestration."
Also, 30 of the 34 Republicans on the Armed Services panel have written a letter pushing the budget conference committee to ditch defense cuts.