Clyburn: Magic budget date is Jan. 15

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Wednesday the real deadline for the budget conference is Jan. 15, not mid-December. 

While the No. 3 Democrat in the House expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached this month, he said January is more realistic. 

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“I am hopeful for that, but remember that the magic date here is really Jan. 15. I wouldn’t be surprised if we would not come together by the 15th,” he said on MSNBC. 

Congress set a deadline for the budget conference to come to an agreement by Dec. 13, next Friday. But the government isn't estimated to run out of money again until Jan. 15, marking the real deadline. 

Both parties are working on an agreement to extend government funding and possibly replace some sequester cuts. Clyburn described the talks as “very, very close but far away.”

While many have broadly agreed on partial sequester replacements, they have not settled on how much to replace — or how to pay for it.  

“I don’t think we have arrived at a number,” he said. “I was meeting last night with staff, some of the staff, on this and none of us are comfortable with laying down a number.”

He said Democrats will remain leery of any deal until the final terms are settled on. 

“We are not going to agree to anything until everything is agreed to. That is the problem we get with these things,” he said. “You agree to something, then you look around and the goal posts get moved.” 

On Tuesday, a number of Democrats expressed opposition to another continuing resolution to fund the government that keeps the sequester in place if the budget conference does not reach an agreement in January.