With the shutdown stalemate now behind us, Congress now has to come up with a federal budget. And several local Democratic lawmakers are set to take on the task. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland were all tapped to join a bipartisan group that will try to work out a budget deal. David Hawkings, writer of the Hawkings Here column for Roll Call, has the details.
On what kind of work we can expect Kaine, Warner, and Van Hollen to bring to the table as part of this bipartisan group that's supposed hash out a budget deal:
"Well, they're all three members of the budget committees. Chris Van Hollen is actually the top Democrat on the House budget committee. They will all be working for this big deal, so that includes revenues... which is the code work for taxes, and that's a non-starter for the Republicans. These talks of a grand bargain will be set aside, and these negotiations will be focused down on the one issue where there's a majority in Congress on both sides of the aisle to agree to dial back — or turn off — sequestration."
On CNN's Face the Nation, Warner said: "the single biggest thing we could do for our economy, single biggest job creator would be to put together a bigger bargain that includes revenues, that includes entitlement reforms." On whether that is a deal all Democrats agree with:
"In theory, that's is a deal that all Democrats could get behind. That's what the president wants — entitlement reform, we should hasten to add is code for Medicaid, Medicare, farm subsidies... Sen. Warner is in that key middle who wants to cut that deal."
On the possibility of pay raises for federal workers and how this became part of the deal:
"This is a little bit of legislative trickery. I don't want to malign the people who did it, but silence in the bill that was enacted last week paves the way for a 1 percent pay raise for federal workers. Here's how it works: the president last summer declared that he wanted to give federal employees a 1 percent pay raise. Congress has until the end of the year to do something different. And they could, by law, set it as zero, or they could set another number. If they don't act affirmatively to come up with a number, the president gets to go through with this promise on his own authority."
On whether Congress will make any effort to block a pay raise before January:
"I think there's a small chance that the Republicans would do that, but given the congressional gridlock and how difficult it is for a bill to become law, I think it's highly unlikely that Congress would step in at this point."