New Sequestration, Budget Talks Begin Ahead of Dec. 13 Deadline

A congressional budget conference committee made up of Senate and House members met for the first time Wednesday, October 30, in a joint effort to avoid another government shutdown and to address a second round of sequestration spending cuts scheduled to take effect January 15, 2014.

Lawmakers must strike a deal on the impending $109 billion in sequestration cuts, including $52 billion in cuts to the Defense Department, by December 13 or risk more job loss, lower economic activity, a compromised national security strategy and more pain for the American public.

Democrats are calling for an end to the sequester and the GOP’s incessant attacks on low-income families, the middle class and seniors, through tax increases on those who can most afford them.

“I’m ready to make some tough concessions to get a deal,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA), the lead negotiator for Senate Democrats, in an article in The Washington Post. “But compromise runs both ways. Republicans are also going to have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code and close some wasteful tax loopholes and special interest subsidies, because it is unfair and unacceptable to ask seniors and families to bear this burden alone.”

There can be little doubt that sequestration is doing more harm than good to the economy. In August, the Congressional Budget Office said that, by canceling sequestration for the next 14 months, lawmakers could add 1 million jobs and increase gross domestic product by 0.7 percent.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) appears unwilling to compromise, stating “if this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

The next budget conference committee meeting is scheduled for November 13, when lawmakers will have a month left to reach a deal by the December 13 deadline.

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