In late September, negotiations on government spending became heated over funding of the Affordable Care Act with bills going back-and-forth between the U.S. House and Senate. With no agreement by the end of fiscal 2013, the government shut down. Eventually, a deal was reached to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at FY13 post-sequestration levels through Jan. 15, 2014. Another part of the agreement was to have a budget conference committee convene to hold bipartisan discussions on FY14 spending levels. Yesterday, this committee met for the first time.
During the hearing, the committee members each had a chance to speak about the general direction of their budget plan and how to work across party lines to come to an agreement by the January deadline. Members from both political parties agreed that smarter cuts need to be implemented rather than the across-the-board cuts of sequestration. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said, “… the very least this conference should be able to do—the absolute minimum—is find a way to come together around replacing sequestration.” On a similar note, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said “I’m hopeful that this committee can come to agreement on eliminating the damaging, senseless cuts of sequester.” As science funding suffers greatly from sequestration, a budget deal that removes sequestration altogether is ideal.
Members of Congress are open to methods other than sequestration to save the government money. Tax reform or entitlement cuts could raise the revenue needed to keep the discretionary cuts to a minimum. This is where party disagreements may delay progress in making a deal and potentially contribute to another government shutdown. However, given the fallout from the recent government shutdown, both parties are reluctant to have a reoccurrence. If the tone of this first meeting carries throughout negotiations, then a deal that repeals sequestration may be near.
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