With new budget deadlines, top Hill lawmakers appear as far apart as ever

Top Washington lawmakers appeared no closer Sunday to reaching deals on upcoming budget negotiations than they were on the recent ones -- disagreeing over an entire range of issues including taxes, spending and ObamaCare.

Among the key issues is whether negotiators for the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate can agree on an alternative to the indiscriminate cuts know as sequester, a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Such a deal seemed unlikely considering Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt told “Fox News Sunday” the act was “better than anything we’ve had before to control spending.”

And Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said later on the show that Democrats “won’t trade” reducing cuts on defense spending for deep cuts to entitlement, as Republicans have proposed.

Democrats want to increase spending levels next year above the sequester caps and replace them with more long-term budget savings through spending cuts and tax increases, which Republicans have rejected.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate counterpart Sen. Patty Murray have expressed optimism that they can reach deals by the December 13 deadline, included in the compromise Congress struck Wednesday that reopened the government and increased the federal debt limit.

An additional $19 billion in sequester cuts would kick in January 15 if the negotiators fail to reach an agreement.

They must also reach deals before the federal government faces another partial shutdown of government services in mid-January and reaches its debt ceiling again by February 7.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Sunday the weeks-long fiscal standoffs followed by the last-minute solution “cannot happen again.”

"I think the message that we have to send going forward is that there was a turning point on Wednesday night and this won't happen again," he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” "It can't happen again."

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz -- who led failed efforts to defund President Obama’s health care law as part of the recent fiscal negotiations -- has said he will continue to stop the “train wreck” that is ObamaCare.

Cruz repeated in an interview with CNN aired on Sunday that efforts to dismantle ObamaCare remain a “top priority.” But he declined to elaborate on his plan, which is now unpopular with many Republicans, saying, “There will be time enough to talk about specific strategies, specific tactics.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she didn’t care whether Republicans will in upcoming budget negotiations use problems with the ObamaCare website to negotiate favorable deals.

I don't know what they’ll do because it doesn't matter,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” “The fact is that tens of millions more people will have access to affordable, quality health care.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.