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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 McConnellGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure MORE (R-Ky.) and other leaders of the Senate Republican Conference.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress Democrats have a Puerto Rican problem Dem Susie Lee defeats Danny Tarkanian to retain Nevada House seat MORE (D-Nev.), Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Durbin: Republicans are making it 'as hard as possible' to vote GOP Rep. Rodney Davis wins reelection in Illinois MORE (D-Ill.), Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSunday shows preview: Trump taps acting attorney general to lead Justice Department Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Pelosi: Acting attorney general 'should not be there' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Dem senators want hearing on funding for detained migrant children Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump insists GOP will 'totally' protect people with pre-existing conditions | Landmark opioid bill signed into law | Report finds agencies blindsided by 'zero tolerance' policy MORE (D-Wash.), who crafted the last bipartisan budget deal with Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader 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 CornynThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-Texas), Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-S.D.), Republican Policy Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Overnight Energy: US, Canada react negatively to Keystone pipeline block | Trump calls ruling a 'disgrace' | Interior officers nabbed 4,000 immigrants crossing US-Mexico border GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally MORE (R-Wyo.) and Vice Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Campaign cybersecurity poses next major challenge for federal election officials 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.