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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Congress nearing budget deal?

Posted by on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Congress being Congress I wouldn't hold my breath, but the Washington Post reports that Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Paul Ryan are close on a possible budget deal to fund the government past Jan. 15. 

Work appeared to be complete on the basic package, a plan to partially repeal sharp spending cuts known as the sequester in fiscal 2014 and 2015 and cover the cost with roughly $65 billion in alternative savings. But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were conferring with congressional leaders on other year-end issues, including the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed and payment rates for doctors who see Medicare patients.

It was unclear Monday whether Democrats would succeed in their campaign to win a year-long extension of emergency jobless benefits, which are set to expire at the end of the month, cutting off 1.3 million people. 

An announcement could come as early as today, though there are lots of ways that a deal could die even if Murray and Ryan shake hands on it. In both moral and economic terms, extending unemployment insurance is one of Democrats' top priorities — and all indications are that party leaders consider the issue a political winner for them. If it's not included in this deal, it could theoretically be dealt with separately, but would likely set up another standoff, as Congressional Republicans are firmly opposed to any extension. Could that lead us to another shutdown? Hard to believe either party would have the stomach for it, but...

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