Rep. Ryan: Budget Panel 'Talking About Differences' as New Shutdown Looms

Image: Rep. Ryan: Budget Panel 'Talking About Differences' as New Shutdown Looms

Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 10:09 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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The bipartisan budget conference committee has made little progress on a long-term budget deal to help avoid a second government shutdown, ABC News reported Wednesday.

During the group's second meeting, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., acknowledged that both sides have differences of opinion on how to deal with the budget issue.

"Today's meeting will keep the ball rolling," Ryan said Wednesday. "The reason we are here is to get an agreement. We've spent a lot of time talking about our differences. We've got that part down cold. That's the easy part. The hard part is figuring out where we agree."

"It is extremely important, and we agree that we need to step out of our partisan corners and make some compromises to lay down a foundation for some long-term bipartisan agreements," Murray said.

On Wednesday, the group of 29 lawmakers was briefed by Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf, who addressed the long-term and short-term economic and budget outlook.

Elmendorf tackled the immediate challenges facing the country, such as the latest recession, which has led to slow job growth and higher unemployment rates among certain demographics.

Elmendorf also said prolonged weakness in the economy coupled with an aging population, the expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and rising healthcare costs also will place tremendous pressure on the budget in the long term.

He urged the committee to reach a deal and avoid the kind of standoff that triggered a partial two-week government shutdown last month.

"Big steps are better than small steps, but small steps are better than no steps at all," Elmendorf said.

As part of the agreement to reopen the government and temporarily suspend the debt ceiling, the committee faces a Dec. 13 deadline to come to a budget deal.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned committee members that time was running out.

"This conference committee must be successful in reaching agreements on a funding level for fiscal year 2014 with enough time for bills to pass before Jan. 15," she said.

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