WASHINGTON — President Obama's tax-cut deal with Republicans will pass in Congress, budget leaders of both parties predicted, as they disagreed on whether the plan might be altered.
Republican Paul Ryan, who becomes House Budget Committee chairman in January, and Democrat Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the plan will be sent to Obama's desk, though Conrad said he hoped House Democrats would change estate tax provisions he considers too generous to the wealthy.
In interviews airing this weekend on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," both men said they expect Congress to pivot from tax-cutting to reducing the budget deficit early next year before a vote that will be required to raise the federal debt limit.
"There has got to be an agreement to deal with our long- term debt challenge," Conrad said he told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House budget director Jack Lew during a meeting on Dec. 9. Otherwise, "extending the debt limit will not happen but for short periods of time," the lawmaker said.
Ryan, of Wisconsin, said he plans to lead the Republican push to cut domestic spending by $100 billion early next year, before the debt-limit vote.
"The debt ceiling obviously is going to have to be increased if we're not going to default," Ryan said. "So the question is, what do we get in exchange for that?"
"We want to bring spending back to something like pre- binge, pre-spending levels of 2008. So that means we want to go after a good $100 billion," he said.
Conrad, of North Dakota, said efforts to cut the deficit are made more difficult by polls showing the public opposes many of the tax increases and spending cuts that would be needed. A Bloomberg News survey this week showed that Americans want Congress to reduce the deficit without cutting Social Security, defense or many other programs.
"We've got a huge educational job to do with the American public," Conrad said. Lawmakers "have to be prepared to sacrifice their political careers to do what must be done for the nation."
"If we fail to get our deficits and debt under control, America will become a second-class nation," he said. "We are going to slip over the abyss into a fiscal crisis that is as sure as we sit here."