Government Reopening Seen as Prelude to Entitlement Breakthrough

Image: Government Reopening Seen as Prelude to Entitlement Breakthrough Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray emerge from a meeting in the Senate Reception Room on Oct. 17.

Thursday, 17 Oct 2013 11:57 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The deal that reopened the government contains policy elements that could pave the way for lawmakers to make significant changes in tax and spending policies, particularly involving entitlement programs, according to NBC News.

The deal calls for a bicameral conference committee to be headed by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. to come with a long-term budget agreement by mid-December.

The process offers the potential to reduce annual budget deficits and the national debt. The committee will discuss tax increases and Medicare and other entitlement curbs. A budget plan might also contain a relaxation of cuts in sequestered discretionary spending mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, NBC reported.

The House and Senate have already passed conflicting versions of a 2014 budget plan. The Murray-Ryan conference committee would need to reconcile the two budgets and have the compromise plan approved by each House.

Ryan has outlined a possible compromise in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

"We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs," he wrote.

If the Murray-Ryan committee does manage to come up with a fast-track "budget reconciliation" plan, the reforms could be approved by a simple majority vote in each house with no possibility of a Senate filibuster.

There is no guarantee, however, that the conference committee members will be able to agree on a plan.



Charles Krauthammer
took a pessimistic view on Fox News Wednesday on the grounds that the president has made it plain he wants to trade a tax hike for entitlement reform.

Reducing the budget has "never been a [Democratic] priority," he said. "The priority is to increase entitlements. [President Barack Obama] believes he's a leveler. He wants to spread the wealth. He's been open about that."

Related stories:

America Has Become an Entitlement Society

Sanford: We Must Address Entitlements, Tax Policy

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