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November 25, 2013

Prospects better for small-scale budget deal

WASHINGTON — Despite the poisonous environment in Congress, chances are improving for a small-scale budget deal next month that would ease automatic spending decreases that threaten to cut more deeply into domestic programs and military priorities in 2014.

Neither party will get its biggest priority — for Democrats, higher taxes; for Republicans, slowing the exploding cost of retirement programs. But a mutual desire to avert another government shutdown sets the stage for splitting the $91 billion difference between what Senate Democrats and House Republicans want to spend next year on operating budgets of the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

Any deal reached by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his counterpart in the Senate, Patty Murray, could still be rejected by their colleagues. But both profess optimism while working hard to minimize potentially damaging leaks that could derail their efforts. Murray, D-Wash., plans to return to the Capitol the week after Thanksgiving to continue behind-closed-door negotiations even though the Senate will remain on recess.

“Hopefully, we can finish, but we’ll see,” Murray said. “I can just say we’re working really hard to get an agreement.”

— AP

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