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Budget negotiations start, sequestration and entitlements focus of debate

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Fiscal 2014 budget negotiations start this week and there are no signs of a major bargain to end the budget stalemate.

"If we focus on some big, grand bargain then we're going to focus on our differences, and both sides are going to require that the other side compromises some core principle and then we'll get nothing done," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, said, the AP reports.

The official budget conference was agreed to as part of the continuing resolution that funds the government through Jan. 15. The budget panel will work until the Dec. 13 deadline to try and come up with an agreement.

The conference committee includes 14 Democrats, 14 Republicans and two independent senators who caucus with Democrats.

Most debate will likely center around the automatic budget cuts that come with sequestration, if both sides can't reach an agreement before the temporary spending bill runs out.

It's not likely that Republicans will continue to use the Affordable Care Act as a bargaining chip, as it did when fighting to pass a continuing resolution during the shutdown. Ryan told lawmakers that he would push instead for long-term reforms to entitlement programs in exchange for changes to sequestration spending cuts that Democrats are expected to demand, The Hill reports.

"I think we all agree that there's a smarter way to cut spending" than sequestration, Ryan said, in the AP report. "If I can reform entitlement programs where the savings compound annually, that is more valuable for reducing the debt than a one-time spending cut in discretionary spending."

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