By 8/18/15 3:33 PM
Senate Democrats on Tuesday demanded immediate negotiations with Senate Republicans on spending legislation for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
“With the existence of a clear and urgent deadline for action, we believe it would be unwise to wait until after the Congress returns from the August state work period, just 23 days before the end of the federal fiscal year, to begin talks on a path forward,” Democrats said in the letter.
The GOP leadership office did not respond to a request for a comment on the Democratic letter. But Republicans have so far resisted efforts by Democrats to hold talks on government funding, arguing that Democrats blocked spending legislation from moving forward in the Senate earlier this year.
Senate Democrats refused to advance any fiscal 2016 spending bills, saying they objected to caps required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Democrats want Republicans to agree to higher domestic spending levels, and are angry that the GOP has found a way around the spending caps for the Defense Department.
Many Republicans in both the House and Senate are also opposed to the caps, which would have made it almost impossible to pass every spending bill even without Democratic opposition.
The House and Senate will not return to work until after Labor Day, leaving just a handful of legislative work days to come up with a spending plan for the government beyond the end of the fiscal year.
Due to disagreements over spending levels, Congress has increasingly waited until nearly the end of the fiscal year or beyond to come to an accord that satisfies both parties and President Obama.
It won’t be easy this year.
Obama and Democrats have called for an increase in taxes to pay for higher spending levels. Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the plan “a nonstarter.”
The letter, signed by all 46 Senate Democrats and Independents, is below:
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
S-230 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20150
Dear Leader McConnell:
There are less than two months left in the fiscal year, and we are deeply concerned by the fact that negotiations to craft a bipartisan budget agreement have not yet begun. With the end of the fiscal year looming, we urge you to immediately schedule bipartisan budget negotiations so that we can work together over the coming weeks to avoid another manufactured crisis.
Inaction and failure to responsibly restore sequester-level cuts in FY16 appropriations bills will have real consequences for our country. That is why we are eager to start working as soon as possible to negotiate a compromise that will keep our nation and economy strong, and keep the government open.
With the existence of a clear and urgent deadline for action, we believe it would be unwise to wait until after the Congress returns from the August state work period – just 23 days before the end of the federal fiscal year – to begin talks on a path forward. We cannot afford to wait, only to let delay and inaction bring us to the brink of another totally predictable and completely preventable crisis.
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 possible.
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer
Patrick J. Leahy
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Mark R. Warner
Mazie K. Hirono
Edward J. Markey