Ryan, above, and Murray have met to discuss a possible budget conference committee, but other members and leaders don’t seem very invested in the process.
“There’s not much hope that there’s a final product that comes out of the conference committee unless that conference committee is a place holder that allows everybody to start all over,” one Senate Republican aide said. “Not one of these budgets is going to pass . . . so what’s the point of doing it? Once conferees are named, what’s the purpose of having that framework passed if there’s going to be no buy-in from leaderships?”
Moreover, a conference committee could expose rifts in both parties. Republicans likely would attack vulnerable in-cycle Democrats on tax increases while Democrats would use their oft-used charge that the GOP is aiming to destroy the social safety net. Plus, if an approved budget included reconciliation instructions for tax code changes, it could irk Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. Baucus has been working with his House GOP counterpart, Dave Camp of Michigan, on the issue for years and also has a history of bristling at those who cross over into Finance’s turf. At this point, though, sources see tax code changes being done outside the confines of the budget, if at all.
The whole affair has an air of futility. While the 2011 supercommittee on deficit reduction met, Murray — as co-chairwoman — was often frustrated because the Republicans with whom she was working had no buy-in from their caucus and little encouragement from leaders. Although sources close to Murray say she learned from her experience on that failed committee, it’s unclear whether the dynamics have shifted.
Additionally, her relationship with Ryan is still new — although he does have a good rapport with his House Budget counterpart, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
“That is the key question and that’s where we started — we don’t know whether that’s changed or not,” a senior Democratic aide said. “The question is not whether [Ryan] is likable; it’s whether he wants to cut a deal. We showed and the president showed that there’s a willingness to go pretty far to get a deal and we feel like that hasn’t been reciprocated.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.