Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) laid a marker at the outset of a budget panel's negotiations Wednesday, saying the House-Senate conference committee must not focus on raising taxes.
"If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere," Ryan will say, according to prepared opening remarks. "The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy."
Ryan, who is leading the GOP side of negotiations opposite Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said neither side would have to abandon its principles to come to a deal — and instead that both sides must find the areas where they agree.
"We all agree Washington isn’t working. We all agree there’s a smarter way to cut spending. And we all agree our economy could be doing a lot better," he will say. "We won’t resolve all our differences here. We won't solve all our problems. But we can make a good start. And we should, because we owe it to the country."
Ryan previously said he doesn't envision the conference committee coming to an agreement on a large-scale "grand bargain" — a view that is shared by Democratic Senate leaders.
The biggest questions in the looming negotiations are whether Republicans will agree to revenue increases — potentially include tax hikes — and whether Democrats will agree to entitlement reforms. Both sides are hesitant to broach those topics.
A poll released Wednesday by the independent Peter G. Peterson Foundation and conducted by a Democratic pollster showed a majority of Republicans are open to revenue increases — the poll didn't ask about "tax" increases — and a majority of Democrats are open to entitlement reforms.
The conference committee was created as part of the deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling this month. Congress hasn't been able to agree on a long-term budget in years.
Update 2:25 p.m.: In her opening statement, Murray said the panel should at the very least find a replacement for the set of automatic cuts known as the sequester.
"This won't be easy; the House and Senate budgets are very different, even for this year," Murray said.