With the ink barely dry from President Obama's signature on legislation to end the shutdown, the top four congressional authorities on the budget kicked off the next phase of negotiations with a bipartisan breakfast at the Capitol this morning.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget committee, and Sen. Patty Murray, the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, joined together with their respective counterparts, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget committee.
Afterwards, Ryan, the former Republican nominee for vice president in 2012, said the budget gurus "had a very good conversation" about how the budget adversaries can reach common ground.
"We want to look for ways to find common ground to get a budget agreement," Ryan, R-Wis., said. "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.
"Those are our shared goals."
Murray, who served as the Democratic co-chair of the failed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in 2011, agreed it was a "good conversation."
"We believe there is common ground in showing the American people that as the Congress we can work and make sure our economy is growing and that people are back to work, and that we can do the job that we were sent here to do," Murray, D-Wash., said. "Chairman Ryan knows I'm not going to vote for his budget. I know that he's not going to vote for mine. We're going to find the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on, and that's our goal."
Given the widely publicized failure of the so-called Supercommittee two years ago, the lawmakers were asked why people should trust that the latest group tasked to address the federal budget deficit will succeed this time around.
"Not talking guarantees failure," Van Hollen, D-Md., "Talking doesn't guarantee success, but if you don't get together, obviously, you can't move forward.
"Nobody can guarantee success but what we can say is that if we don't make the effort, and get together and talk, that would guarantee failure."
"The supercommittee's goals were much broader, much larger," Murray added. "We have a challenge that's been handed to us to have a reconciliation between the Senate budget and the House budget and those issues are all on the table and we'll be talking about all of them and our job is to make sure that we have put forward a spending path and a budget path for this Congress in the next year or two, or further if we can."
Ryan also pointed out that Congress hasn't had a budget conference since 2009, and added "it's too premature" to identify a specific dollar amount for negotiations to target as they look ahead to their Dec. 13 deadline.
"We're just starting our discussions, but let's understand what we're doing here. We're going back to regular order. This is the budget process. The House passes a budget, the Senate passes a budget, we come together to try to reconcile the differences. That's the way we're supposed to do things. That's the way the budget law is supposed to work. This is how the founders envisioned the Constitution working," Ryan said. "It's high-time that we start talking together to try to reconcile our differences and it's premature to get into how exactly we're going to do that because we're just beginning these conversations."
In addition to Ryan and Van Hollen, the House members appointed to the conference committee are Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., Tom Price, R-Ga., Diane Black, R-Tenn., James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
Besides Murray and Sessions, the entire Senate budget committee was invited to join the negotiations. For the Democrats, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Mark Warner, D-Va., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Chris Coons, D-N.J., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Angus King, I-Maine, will partake in the negotiations.
For the Republicans, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., were appointed to the committee.