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Signs of Some Budget Conference Committee Progress

While the vast majority of observers still give low odds of a budget agreement reached by the self-imposed deadline of Dec. 13, there have been signs of some progress this week among key budget panel leaders. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the congressional budget leaders, have been talking frequently, with some observers signaling they could reach a narrow deal to replace a portion of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. Murray said in an interview Tuesday that she’s in “very good conversations” with Ryan. “The goal here is to replace sequestration with responsible spending cuts and revenue,” Murray said. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Ryan sounded “optimistic” about reaching a deal, a sentiment voiced by several other Republicans who have spoken recently with the House Budget chairman. Ryan has reportedly developed several different frameworks that replace the sequester for different lengths of time. While details are lacking, they could include some mandatory savings, along with revenue — but no new taxes. Ryan also said at a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that he and Murray had made progress toward a deal, but negotiations had not concluded. Either they will reach an agreement, he said, or Congress will agree to another continuing resolution to avoid a replay of the 16-day government shutdown seen in October. “Either one of those two scenarios will prevail, and therefore we will not have a government shutdown,” Ryan said.

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