By Erik Wasson - 12/04/13 03:55 PM EST
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, emerged from a brief negotiating session with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday to say that a budget deal could come soon.
“We are closer every hour,” she said.
Ryan and Murray are racing to meet a Dec. 13 deadline for reaching a deal to reconcile the vastly different House and Senate budget resolutions.
“We are still talking,” Ryan said after the meeting.
The two lawmakers are seeking an agreement to replace part of the $91 billion in sequester cuts called for in 2014 under the Budget Control Act. Those cuts would hit both defense spending and domestic programs.
An agreement could boost the top-line spending level from $967 billion to more than $1 trillion per year — far below the $1.058 trillion sought in Murray’s budget resolution, but above what House Republicans have proposed.
Lawmakers are said to be exploring ways to replace some of the sequester cuts without raising taxes.
One proposal on the table is increased retirement contributions for federal workers, but that has drawn fire from unions and members of the Virginia and Maryland delegations.