WASHINGTON (AP) - Top negotiators from the House and Senate are promising to genuinely try to reach an agreement that would spare both the Pentagon and domestic agencies from automatic spending cuts, the result of Washington's failure to strike a budget deal.
But as the talks opened today, a familiar rift surfaced over taxes -- with top GOP negotiator Paul Ryan taking a firm stance against using tax revenues to ease the automatic cuts. He says, "If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we're not going to get anywhere."
The major players had already signaled that the idea of a "grand bargain" that would include hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax revenues and politically painful savings from benefit programs is highly unlikely. Instead, their efforts are focused on a smaller agreement to smooth out the rough edges of the automatic cuts.
Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, says she's willing to consider longer-term cuts to spending on certain benefit programs in order to ease immediate across-the-board cuts to agency operating budgets. But she's insisting that Republicans put revenue into the mix as well.