Pelosi: No revenue, no deal

Anne Wernikoff

New revenue must be part of any bipartisan agreement to eliminate the sequester, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.

Although President Obama has reportedly signaled an openness to tackle the across-the-board cuts without hiking taxes, Pelosi warned that such a strategy wouldn’t fly with House Democrats.

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“Our position is that we're going to the table in order to reduce the deficit, grow the economy, create jobs, end the sequester — revenue needs to be on the table,” Pelosi said during her weekly news conference in the Capitol.  

“You can't just take a piece here [and] a piece there; it has to be comprehensive,” she added. “And if you're not going to have revenue, who's going to pay? Granny on Medicare? That's not something we can accept.”

The comments arrive on the same day that a bipartisan group of negotiators from both chambers met officially for the first time in an effort to resolve the differences between the House and Senate 2014 budget bills.

The issue of tax revenue is certain to play a central role in those talks, as Democratic leaders have insisted that new revenue be included in such a deal, while Republicans have been adamant in their opposition.

Indeed, it took little time on Wednesday for the conference leaders, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to clash over that thorny topic.

Murray, who heads the Senate Budget Committee, said Democrats are willing to accept entitlement cuts that are unpopular in their party, but only if Republicans will give on taxes.

“While we scour programs to find responsible savings, Republicans are also going to have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code — and close some wasteful tax loopholes and special interest subsidies,” she said.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, countered with the warning that, “if this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

Obama entered the debate on Wednesday after The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed administration sources, said the president has recently told GOP senators that he might be willing to accept a narrow sequester deal that cuts entitlement programs but raises no new revenue.

Pelosi, for her part, is siding squarely with Murray and Senate Democrats on the issue.

“We Democrats are committed to reaching across the aisle to find common-sense solutions, but the Republicans must be willing to compromise, too, and drop their refusal to consider cutting wasteful tax loopholes and not bringing revenue to the table,” Pelosi said. 

“Our position is the Senate Democratic position,” she added.

Pelosi also amplified her earlier call that the negotiators finalize a budget deal before the Thanksgiving recess rather than extend the talks to the Dec. 13 deadline. Prolonging the talks, she warned, could undermine the holiday shopping season.