Optimism's High as Joint Committee Seeks to Craft Budget Deal
Around the State
With both the Democratic Senate and the Republican House voting to raise the debt ceiling and end the federal shutdown on Wednesday night, attention now turns to the new joint conference committee which has until Dec. 13 to craft a new budget.
The 28-member committee was established as part of the larger deal and is chaired by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is the only Floridian on the committee. The committee must work on reconciling the two chambers’ budgets which are $90 billion apart.
“Today’s legislation reopens the government and averts default,” Ryan said on Wednesday night after the vote. “It rejects Democrats’ demands to increase spending. And it sets a precedent for further changes to Obamacare. But it’s also a missed opportunity. To pay our bills today -- and to make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow -- we must make a down payment on the debt. Today’s legislation won’t help us reduce our fast-growing debt. In fact, it could extend the debt ceiling well into next year, further delaying any action. In my judgment, this isn’t a breakthrough. We’re just kicking the can down the road.”
Despite voting against the deal, Ryan expressed optimism about the committee’s task of reaching an agreement in the next two months and promised to do his best.
“I hope both sides will work together in the months ahead to pay down the debt, provide relief for families, and grow the economy,” Ryan said. “I look forward to convening the first conference on a budget resolution since 2009. And though a budget resolution by itself can’t resolve our spending problem, I’m committed to making a bipartisan budget conference a success.”
Murray supported the deal, calling the 16-day federal shutdown an “embarrassing episode.” Despite that, Murray said she was optimistic about the budget conference committee.
“I am looking forward to the big challenge that bridging the significant differences between the House and Senate budgets presents, I am absolutely committed to finding common ground, and I hope Republicans are too,” Murray said on Wednesday night. “My hope is that in the weeks and months ahead we can heal many of the partisan divides that keep us from addressing the big challenges we face, including returning our focus to creating jobs and improving our economy. But most importantly, I hope that we heed the call of every American to do everything we can to ensure we never repeat the damaging crises we are on the verge of emerging from.”
On Thursday morning, Murray and Ryan, who both chair their chamber’s Budget Committee, met for breakfast. They were joined by the ranking minority members on their committee: U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. They expressed optimism as their committee starts its work.
Nelson, first elected to the Senate in 2000 after stints in the Florida Legislature, U.S. House and state office, on Thursday called for his fellow committee members to put aside politics and work together. After his impressive dismantling of Republican candidate Connie Mack last year, Nelson does not face Florida voters until 2018.
“The way I see this, every member of Congress has a responsibility to put aside partisan political differences in favor of finding common-sense solutions,” said Nelson who sits on the Budget and Finance committees.
The joint committee was cited by U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., who voted to support the deal.
“The underlying structural problems that surround Washington’s reckless spending patterns are ... addressed in this legislation by requiring the House and Senate to work together to develop a budget agreement by Dec. 13th,” Crenshaw said.
Still some opponents of the agreement said the joint committee can do little to rectify the problem. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the agreement only postponed the crisis.
“This bill simply kicks the can down the road even further and maintains the unsustainable fiscal path toward a debt-induced collapse,” Miller said. “The American people deserve better than this, and I will continue to work hard toward sensible spending reforms that bend the curve toward a balanced budget. We have to get serious about a real reduction in spending, and these reductions should be negotiated with our Senate counterparts and the president, as the founders intended.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.