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Washington Week: Lawmakers Return to Budget Battle

  • Michael Bowman

A select group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers meets this week in search of a bipartisan blueprint for America’s fiscal future. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the conference brings together top lawmakers from the House and Senate budget committees that, for years, have been deadlocked on federal spending and taxation.

The conference is tasked with bridging major budget differences between the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate. It also has a larger purpose, according to Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray.

“Showing the American people that, as a Congress, we can work and make sure that our economy is growing and that people are back to work,” said Murray.

That sentiment was echoed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican.

“Our goal is to do good for the American people, to get this debt under control, to do smart deficit reduction and to do things that we think can grow the economy and get people back to work,” said Ryan.

The conference was mandated by legislation earlier this month that ended a two-week federal shutdown and averted a U.S. debt default. The bipartisan group has until mid-December to hammer out a budget deal. Democrats, including President Barack Obama, want more revenue for domestic priorities.

“What is going to help us grow, what is going to create jobs, what is going to expand our middle class, what is going to give more opportunity to young people - those are the things we should be putting money into,” said Obama.

By contrast, Republicans want further budget austerity. Among the leading voices is House Speaker John Boehner.

“The looming problems that are affecting our country are still there. We are spending more than what we bring in,” said Boehner.

Failure to reach a budget accord by mid-December would risk another government shutdown in January, when federal spending authority expires once again. Lawmakers of both parties say they have no desire to see federal operations halted a second time, but it remains to be seen whether that will generate a bipartisan deal that can pass both houses of a politically divided Congress.

On global matters, President Obama welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the White House Friday.