By Peter Schroeder - 10/30/13 01:22 PM EDT
House and Senate negotiators will be focused on a small deal instead of a grand bargain when they meet Wednesday to begin their first budget conference since 2009.
Republicans and Democrats are talking about replacing all or part of the sequester, but divisions over the old question of new taxes could thwart a deal.
The first meeting is expected to run some three hours, but will include little actual negotiation as all 29 members deliver opening statements.
Striking a deal could make it easier to raise the debt ceiling before Feb. 7, when the current extension expires.
But if the sides can’t come together, another stopgap measure could be needed to prevent a second government shutdown. Funding is set to run out after Jan. 15.
In a sign of the tough road ahead, squabbling on taxes had already started.