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Top Dems demand bipartisan budget talks

Top Dems demand bipartisan budget talks

Top Senate Democrats  are demanding that Republicans schedule a first round of bipartisan budget negotiations for next week that would focus on easing sequestration spending caps for 2016.

“We write to urge you to immediately schedule bipartisan budget negotiations for next week to find a fair, reasonable and responsible path forward for funding key national priorities such as national defense and domestic investments in education, health, science, and infrastructure,” the senators wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTim Scott to deliver GOP response to Biden's speech to Congress GOP state attorneys general urge Biden, Congress not to expand Supreme Court The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (R-Ky.) and other leaders of the Senate Republican Conference.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison MORE (D-Nev.), Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinCornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge US Chamber of Commerce comes out in support of bipartisan, bicameral immigration bill GOP sees immigration as path to regain power MORE (D-Ill.), Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate to vote next week on repealing Trump methane rule  Joe Lieberman to push senators on DC statehood On The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Schumer kicks into reelection mode Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Wash.), who crafted the last bipartisan budget deal with Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) in December 2013.

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The Ryan-Murray deal, which lifted spending limits for 2014 and 2015, expires at the end of September.

Republicans and Democrats have both said the sequestration budget ceilings are “neither smart, nor an effective means to budget for our national defense and our domestic investment priorities,” the Democrats wrote.

“We are alarmed that you have not displayed a greater sense of urgency to address this problem,” they wrote to McConnell, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge US Chamber of Commerce comes out in support of bipartisan, bicameral immigration bill GOP sees immigration as path to regain power MORE (R-Texas), Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP sees immigration as path to regain power Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal MORE (R-S.D.), Republican Policy Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoRepublicans unveil 8 billion infrastructure plan Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution Miners union to back Biden on green energy if it retains jobs MORE (R-Wyo.) and Vice Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP attorneys general group in turmoil after Jan. 6 Trump rally Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban St. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run MORE (R-Mo.).

Just last week, Democrats invited Republicans to hold a budget summit, but McConnell rejected the idea of having one now.

Sequestration budget ceilings will take effect again in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1, for both the Pentagon and domestic programs. Appropriators have said the spending limits, totaling $1.017 trillion, are hindering their abilities to fully fund critical programs.

The four Senate Democrats argued that when the sequestration ceilings triggered automatic cuts in 2013, Republicans “repeatedly refused” to enter into budget talks with Democrats, but eventually caved after a 16-day government shutdown.

“In the end, and only after a damaging and unnecessary government shutdown, we reached a bipartisan budget compromise that lifted the sequestration-level spending caps for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015,” they said. “ We’re disappointed to see you pursuing a go-it-alone appropriations strategy designed to fail instead of seeking bipartisan solutions that can pass the Senate and be signed into law.”

GOP appropriators in both chambers have been crafting spending bills for fiscal 2016 based on those caps. So far, the House has passed six out of a dozen bills. The Senate has passed none.

Senate Democrats have threatened to block each GOP spending bill from advancing to a final vote until sequestration caps are relieved for next year.

“We are ready and willing to work with you to produce a fair and balanced Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Therefore, we respectfully request you schedule the first round of these important negotiations as soon as next week,” they wrote.

The White House says it has already done its part by submitting a budget blueprint in February that laid out a plan for lifting sequestration.