WASHINGTON — The No. 2 Democrat in the House said today that the top GOP negotiator on the budget is not interested in finding a compromise that would replace automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland says that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is not engaging in “a serious effort to reach agreement” and hasn’t forwarded an offer to Democrats.
“They are not interested in compromise,” Hoyer said of Republicans.
Hoyer’s comments came as a cloud of pessimism has descended over the budget talks. Democrats insist that some of the deficit savings to replace the cuts come from closing tax loopholes and Republican insist they won’t allow that.
“Reaching agreement will require compromise and both sides moving to a compromise position,” Hoyer told reporters. “I don’t believe that Mr. Ryan believes that if he did that he could bring it back to the House” and get enough GOP votes to pass it.
Meanwhile, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky appeared before a closed-door meeting of House Republicans and urged them to maintain the tight spending limits under sequestration.
McConnell urged Republicans to preserve the tight $967 billion “cap” on agency operating budgets in the 2014 budget year, even though GOP defense hawks worry about a deeper round of spending cuts set to strike the Pentagon. At the same time, top Republicans on the Appropriations committees are worried that the $967 billion cap is unworkable.
A House GOP aide said McConnell spoke of “maintaining 967.” The aide wasn’t authorized to be identified by name in discussing what was said behind closed doors. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, however, said the Kentucky Republican is open to a budget compromise that would lift the $967 cap if offsetting cuts were made to so-called mandatory government programs whose budgets tend to increase as if on autopilot.