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Murray, Ryan Hammering Out Details for Budget Conference Committee

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., are in negotiations over how to proceed to a conference committee with budgets approved by both chambers, according to multiple Senate Democratic aides familiar with the talks.

Murray and Ryan met Wednesday and released a joint statement following their session.

“We had a constructive discussion about moving forward under regular order. We recognized the many differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions and the challenge we face in reaching an agreement,” the statement read. “We are committed to working to find common ground. We look forward to continuing the conversation as we move toward a conference committee.”

The formal process of naming conferees cannot begin until the Senate sends their physical budget document to the House — a move that has not yet happened. House Republican sources on Wednesday were grumbling that they had not yet received the budget from Murray.

Sources familiar with the process said that the Senate Budget panel is waiting to send the document to the House as Murray and Ryan continue to work out the details of what a conference might look like. It is unclear when this might happen, but aides on the Senate side said they hoped they could move forward soon. These same Senate sources, however, said they believe Republicans are slow-walking the process because they do not want to have to spend weeks — or months — re-litigating a budget debate that has been politically unfavorable for them. The Senate budget included revenue increases and more modest entitlement reforms than President Barack Obama’s budget that was unveiled Wednesday, and aides said they believe they could score political points through a conference process.

Republicans wary of proceeding to conference are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. For years, Senate Republicans had been bemoaning the fact that Senate Democrats had not done a budget. Now that they’ve done one, attempting to block an effort to reconcile the House and Senate budgets could look hypocritical at worst and politically miscalculated at best.

Moreover, there could be some political daylight between the Senate and House GOP as Senate Republicans work toward trying to reclaim the majority in 2014. Senate Democrats especially were successful at using the Ryan budget against their GOP opponents in 2010 and 2012, and not much about the political dynamics — either in the budget’s substance or Congress’ composition — has changed since then.

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