Official House-Senate budget talks don't start until next week, but already we're seeing some clues as to what a bipartisan deal will look like. House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan says he's focusing on "achievable goals" and eschewing the much-talked about idea of a "grand bargain" between the two parties. Republicans won't allow higher tax rates, but according to Ryan and Rep. Tom Cole, they want to close some loopholes and replace most of the sequester with smarter spending cuts.
Ryan told Politico on Thursday, "We already have spending cuts coming. We’ll take those. If we can have smarter spending cuts, that’s better." Similarly, Cole said on Bloomberg TV Friday that he would replace most of the sequester. Second-round cuts kick in in January and will hit defense spending the hardest, so Republicans should be motivated to negotiate a deal.
Cole told Bloomberg TV, "Again, we're $90 billion apart. I doubt we'll end up in the Republican number or the Democratic number if we have a deal, but if we can't come to a deal, the law specifies sequester numbers. And I don't think that's where the president wants to be. That's not where we want to be.”
Whether the rest of the House GOP will fall in line with this plan remains to be seen. Ryan was almost the hero of the shutdown negotiations — he championed a budget plan that didn't address Obamacare. But then the GOP ignored him and continued to push for an Obamacare delay.
And some in the GOP have said they'll allow no new revenue in a budget deal. Cole insisted that the parties could agree to add "pro-growth revenue." He admitted, "you know, the reality is, you're going to have to have a deal here. And a deal means everybody gives something up. Now, again, we're much more into what I'd call pro-growth revenue."
Ryan especially wants entitlement reforms, and he's willing to trade that for replacing sequester cuts. Even the President has proposed a chained CPI formula for social security benefits, though House Dems rejected that proposal in April.
Ryan told Politico, "We should keep our focus on that and do something that is achievable .... I want to get things done. I don’t want to waste a term in Congress doing nothing. I was sent here to do something to solve problems. My colleagues asked me to chair the budget committee again, and I do want to get something done.”