By Vicki Needham - 10/31/13 07:44 PM EDT
THE BIG STORY:
Talking turkey: So there's a fresh push by congressional appropriators to get a budget conferees to produce a top-line spending number by turkey-carving time.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) wrote a letter on Thursday urging the budget conference to land a spending deal for 2014 before Thanksgiving.
It is the first of three important deadlines in the coming months — the government is funded through Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling extended until Feb. 7.
But appropriators argue that to help their cause in getting a budget in place they need that figure by Nov. 22.
Thanksgiving is late — Nov. 28 — but lawmakers usually head out of town the week before.
The leaders argue that Dec. 13 leaves only a month to conference the 12 appropriations bills, pass them in the House and Senate, and have them signed into law before Jan. 15.
The final deadline would be Dec. 2 , the leaders said.
But there weren't many positive signals this week.
The band of budget conferees met for the first time on Wednesday, and members picked up the fight over whether new tax revenue should be included.
They also want a number for fiscal 2015 so they have something to work with and can wrap up work on the 12 spending bills on time next year.
Right now, the government is running on a stopgap measure following the end of a 16-day government shutdown in October.
The last time detailed appropriations bills were passed was for fiscal 2012, and in that case a huge omnibus bill was used.
"We believe that if an agreement on a discretionary spending number can be reached early, it will allow for more thoughtful and responsible spending decisions, set the parameters for the budgetary savings that need to be reached in your budget conference, and build momentum for a larger budget agreement that addresses the nation’s wide range of fiscal challenges," the letter says.
Sure, there are ways to crank out the bills if they run all the way to the Dec. 13 date, but observers are hoping for bigger things out of the budget conference that go well beyond discretionary spending numbers.
House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (R-Md.) said getting a quick deal makes sense.
"Replacing the job killing sequester and adopting top line budget numbers should be a key priority of the budget negotiations. The Conference Committee should pick up the pace of the negotiations so we can get an agreement by Thanksgiving and give the Appropriations Committees time to do their work," he said.
WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING
Investing summit: U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Secretary of State John Kerry will be among the Obama administration's Cabinet officials to address the SelectUSA meeting on Friday. The two-day summit is aimed at generating foreign interest in investing in the United States.
Food stamp changes: More than 47 million people who receive food stamps will see a drop in their benefits beginning Friday, as Congress continues negotiations on the program.
Beginning in November, a temporary benefit from the 2009 economic stimulus that boosts food stamp dollars will no longer be available. For a family of four, that means $36 less a month.
The program has expanded rapidly in recent years amid the economic downturn, more than doubling costs since 2008 — rising to about $80 billion a year.
House Republicans want to cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years while the Senate plan calls for a modest decrease of $4.5 billion. Lawmakers are aiming to reconcile their differences during a House-Senate conference, which started on Wednesday.
Trade meetings: Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, including the United States, will hold a series of meetings around the United States and in Mexico and Chile in the next month to tackle various parts of the ongoing negotiations. Leaders of the 12 nations involved in the talks have said they would like to complete the agreement by the end of the year, although U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has emphasized that he won't settle on a less than agreeable deal just to hit a self-imposed deadline.
ISM Index: The Institute for Supply Management will release its October index that measures the the manufacturing sector's pace of growth.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Paul says Yellen will win Senate confirmation despite holds
— Vietnam weighs threatening WTO action over catfish
— Dems renew 'nuclear option' talk
— CBC scolds the Senate for blocking Watt's nomination
— Senate Republicans block Watt’s nomination
— Retail industry intensifies push for tax reform
— Momentum builds for permanent 'doc fix'
— Obama administration ramps up efforts to attract foreign investment, create jobs
— Regulator says more funding needed to enforce new rules
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