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Holiday Surprise: Democrats, GOP Close to Budget Deal

As unlikely as it may seem, Congressional Democrats and Republicans are inching closer to a budget deal that would prevent another government shutdown and mitigate the impact of sequestration. Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and Washington Democrat Patty Murray are reportedly quietly negotiating to hammer out a two-year budget agreement before the holiday recess.

While the budget would not appropriate any specific funds, it would create a “top line budget” for both years which would be the maximum number of funds for each appropriations committee and government programs to allocate as they see fit. That number is still being worked out but is expected to be between $967 billion to $1.058 trillion.

Ryan and Murray are reportedly also negotiating ways to roll back some of the sequestration cuts and find new ways to make up that money including new airline fees. The deal would also allow government agencies to implement the sequester cuts in a more common sense approach.

The Republicans have made it clear that they are going on vacation on December 13. That means Murray and Ryan will have to get a deal done by then and have a straight House vote on the budget. By Congressional rules, every budget bill has to originate in the House. The Senate has already left for their vacation but could return for a pre-Christmas vote.

Both sides are surprisingly reportedly “optimistic” that a deal will get done and the agreement could be announced as soon as this week or, more likely, sometime next week before the December 13 deadline set by Speaker John Boehner.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the bill would pass. The sequester caps the top line budget at $967 billion and many conservatives have married themselves to that number. The budget deal could push the top line budget to over a trillion, though most insiders expect it to be closer to $990 billion. Perhaps revenue increases or other cuts to cancel out the difference between the sequestration cap and the new agreement and the fact that the budget negotiations are being spearheaded by GOP darling Paul Ryan could help some Republicans jump onboard.

(Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

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Igor Derysh is the Managing Editor of Latest. com and a syndicated columnist whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, and Orlando Sun Sentinel, and AOL News. His work has been criticized in even more publications. Follow him on Twitter @IgorDerysh