In the agreement to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, Congress also gave a bipartisan budget committee a Dec. 13 deadline to cut a new deal.
While many outside the group are pessimistic, members of the panel are still striking a hopeful tone – despite the fast-approaching deadline.
Lawmakers are not anticipating any sort of “grand bargain” emerging from the talks, considering the restricted timeframe. Both sides, though, agree they’d like to rework the sequester cuts in a more logical way -- but Democrats and Republicans have different ideas.
Democrats say there are loopholes or tax breaks such as mortgage exemptions for second homes which could be trimmed to increase revenue.
“I think the Democrats in the Senate -- in our budget, we said we accept that rates aren't going to go up, that that was a non-negotiable for Republicans. Fine. But you can do what needs to be done on the revenue side if you just go after these tax expenditures,” Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine told Fox News.
Republicans would prefer doing targeted cuts and some entitlement reform, but would like to hold off on cutting loopholes until lawmakers can work on a broader tax reform package, which presumably would also lower rates.
Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price told Fox News it is important to adjust the sequester without increasing spending.
“We need to make certain we do bend that spending curve down, because that's the thing that will help get the economy rolling,” Price said. “But we need to make certain we're not cutting programs that are either helpful for people or would harm our national security.”
“Each side's gonna have to give. Democrats, House, Senate, we're going to have to give,” Kaine said. “But that’s not so big a gap that we shouldn’t be able to close it for the good of the American people and our economy.”
“We need to come to an agreement. We need to find the consensus, the common ground between the two parties, which would be novel for this Congress,” Price told Fox News.
Both Kaine and Price will be in the room as lawmakers try to hammer out a deal. For now, everybody involved is keeping expectations low, and hoping they’ll prove skeptics wrong.