The White House and Democrats are pressing to include new revenue from closing tax loopholes and infrastructure spending to boost the economy. Before departing the White House on Friday for stops in New York City, Obama discussed the budget process by phone with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Murray and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He did not make a similar call to congressional Republicans.
"Even if we do not have the big grand bargain, if you were to have a medium deal or small deal, those deals could have permanent loophole closures and permanent mandatory savings that would help our permanent long-term fiscal situation," senior White House official Gene Sperling told a business group Friday.
The automatic spending cuts are required because a 2011 deficit-reduction supercommittee failed to reach an agreement. The cuts would carve $91 billion from the day-to-day budgets of the Pentagon and domestic agencies in 2014 compared with the spending caps set by a 2011 budget deal. The Pentagon would absorb almost 60 percent of the cuts.
While the first official meeting of the larger House-Senate negotiating team is scheduled for next week, Ryan and Murray have been talking already.
Republicans are looking at a bushel basket of cuts to Medicare health care providers contained in Obama's budget. They also have voiced support for curbing Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, an idea Obama has backed, but only in the context of a broader deal in which Republicans would allow tax increases. That proposal won't fly in the current talks.
There are also several supercommittee ideas like curbing Postal Service cost overruns, making federal workers contribute more to their pensions and raising premiums on higher-income Medicare beneficiaries.