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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate’s top appropriator said she’s “cautiously optimistic” that budget negotiators have a deal to allow her committee to get to work writing fiscal 2014 spending bills.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., made the comment to reporters arriving at the Capitol for a series of morning votes, saying she would know more after speaking with her Democratic colleague and Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington.

Mikulski said she expected Murray to provide information to Senate Democrats during the regular Tuesday caucus lunch.

“The good news is we didn’t let them shred the social safety net, you know, we preserve the integrity of Medicare, we didn’t go to a chain CPI,” Mikulski said. “We could have the potential to avoid another CR or showdown slamdown, so that’s the good part.”

Murray has been negotiating a package with House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that seems likely to provide a two-year deal featuring a roughly $1 trillion top-line figure for fiscal 2014 appropriated spending.

“I have to know more about the federal employee situation, and are they asked to give more. Have the Republicans actually stepped up to maybe closing a loophole and so on,” Mikulski said. “So I need to get more of the details, but I’m optimistic that we can … move forward.”

As the senior senator from a state with an abundance of federal workers, Mikulski has pushed the budget negotiators to minimize any contribution increases for federal pensions or other changes affecting the workforce, sending a Dec. 4 letter to the top members of the House and Senate Budget panels blasting the possibility of including “draconian proposals to require federal employees to pay substantially more for their retirement.”

“I think federal employees have given so much already,” Mikulski said Tuesday. “So, I’m not real excited about that when they were unwilling to close a loophole or to use the $18 billion in savings in the farm bill. Pass the farm bill and use that money.”

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