But just two weeks after a short-term deal ended the 16-day government shutdown, familiar partisan divisions over tax hikes and spending cuts reemerged and expectations remained low that members of the House and Senate panel would achieve the kind of far-reaching deficit reduction deal once pursued by President
"I don't think we're going to do a 'grand bargain' here," said Sen.
The panel, created from this month's budget agreement, has until Dec. 13 to negotiate a budget framework. Funding to keep the federal government open runs out by Jan. 15.
"I want to say this from the get-go: If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we're not going to get anywhere," said Rep.
Democrats, though, said the House GOP's budget blueprint was unacceptable because it shifts the burden of spending cuts away from the Pentagon and onto domestic programs for children, seniors and the poor.
"I'm ready to make some tough concessions to get a deal," said Sen.
The two parties have common ground in their desire to alter the next round of across-the-board spending reductions coming in January. Both sides believe savings could be accomplished in more targeted ways.
But finding a compromise amid the partisan differences remains difficult. Obama was once willing to entertain a deal that would accept Republican proposals to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits, but only in the context of new revenue from taxes or closing tax loopholes.
As the economy has improved, the momentum for such a deal among Democrats has waned. Their motivation fell further Wednesday amid news that the deficit dropped to $680.3 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That's the first deficit under $1 trillion since Obama took office, the Office of Management and Budget said.
Republicans remain eager to cut spending, but the GOP's defense hawks and budget hawks are split over how deeply they are willing to tap accounts related to national security. The GOP divisions, particularly with Boehner's majority in the House, have complicated his ability to negotiate successfully with Democrats.
Many Republicans have grown weary of the hardball tactics their far-right allies have taken in pursuit of budget cuts, as polls showed the public largely blamed the GOP for the government shutdown. Experts estimated that the shutdown cost the economy $24 billion.
"This kind of government by manufactured crisis is a disaster for the American people and the American economy," said Sen.
In a symbolic vote Wednesday, House Republicans passed a resolution disapproving further increases in the nation's