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Budget Talks Open: Sequestration Likely to Go, Entitlement Reform Faces Uphill Climb

Murray said she is prepared to make concessions to get a deal “but compromise runs both ways.” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, noted that resolving differences will prove impossible without “difficult compromises.”

“We cannot start these talks by taking things off the table, and we can’t be serious about reducing the deficit and then refuse to close a single tax break to help reduce that deficit,” he said. “It is hard to make progress when some people think compromise is a dirty word.”

But convincing the GOP to adopt tax and revenue measures to go along with spending cuts to reduce the deficit and debt may prove to be a bridge too far. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) noted that the nation has gone $17 trillion in debt yet more than 16 percent of Americans -- including 20 percent of all children -- still live in poverty. Nearly 50 million live on $23,000 per year or less.

“Washington spends more and more and more, and yet our problems are getting worse and worse and worse,” Price said, and “taking more out of the pockets of hard-working Americans just to satiate Washington won’t solve anything.”

“At this point, a bailout for politicians – in the form of more taxes – so they can continue to spend well beyond our means is a recipe for more fiscal and economic pain,” Price said.

Committee Republicans, Price said, want to address Social Security and Medicare because they “will not have the resources needed to survive if they’re not strengthened.”

“We want to repair America’s 'safety net,' so that we may protect the most vulnerable among us in a fair and caring manner,” Price said. “We want to strengthen our national defense, so that the greatest nation the world has ever known can remain strong, independent and free. And we want to help grow the economy, so that the millions upon millions of our fellow Americans who are unemployed or underemployed can get back to work to support their families and realize their dreams.”

Warner agreed that the panel will have to consider entitlement reform because costs “are going to be greater than we’ve seen in the past because life expectancy now exceeds 80.”

“So we all know what we’re going to have to deal with -- Democrats are going to have to deal with entitlement reforms and Republicans are going to have to deal with revenues, and we ought to be willing to at least approach those areas,” Warner said.

Murray said the lesson that lawmakers should have learned from the recent shutdown is that “the only way we can avoid gridlock and crisis -- and the only way either side can get what they want -- is through compromise and bipartisanship. That’s what the American people are expecting from this conference.”