When the shutdown crisis ended a month ago, three deadlines were set in place. The federal government, for example, is now funded at sequestration levels through Jan. 15, and the debt ceiling won’t have to be raised against until Feb. 7.
And then there was that third one: the bicameral budget talks Senate Democrats sought for six months could finally begin, with the goal of having a framework in place by Dec. 13.
Spoiler alert: negotiators almost certainly won’t meet their deadline.
Lawmakers on Wednesday expressed frustration and worry about the slow pace of the House-Senate budget conference.The 29 conferees face a Dec. 13 deadline to submit a plan but appear to have made no progress so far. “We are running out of time,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior and Environment, said Wednesday.
Everyone seems to think budget talks could produce a deal, but no one seems to think they will reach an agreement.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reportedly had private talks in the hopes of finding a compromise, but they’re nowhere near a deal, and expectations are low.
There’s more than one factor preventing an agreement, but the key hurdles are Republican opposition to new revenue – from anyone, ever – and Republican hopes of including provisions intended to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
And if the talks fail to produce a deal, what happens? In theory, another shutdown would be possible in January when current funding runs out, but both sides’ leaders believe that’s unlikely to happen again. Rather, we should expect current spending levels to be extended for a while longer – which would further lock in the sequestration policy that’s hurting the country by design.