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Reid: ‘There’s Not Going to Be a Grand Bargain’

Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he expected little more from the formal House-Senate budget conference than some relief from automatic spending cuts under sequestration.

The Nevada Democrat called the suggestion of a “grand bargain” including an overhaul of entitlement programs “happy talk.”

“I hope that we can do some stuff to get rid of sequestration and go on to do some sensible budgets — budgeteering. I’ve got a wonderful leader of my Budget Committee, Patty Murray from the state of Washington, and I feel pretty comfortable that she’ll do a good job for us, but … I hope there would be a grand bargain, but I don’t see that happening,” Reid said on Nevada radio station KNPR.

Murray and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., are set to convene the first formal meeting of the budget conference committee on Oct. 30.

Read More on Roll Call: Reid: ‘There’s Not Going to Be a Grand Bargain’

GOP Hawks Want Budget Conferees to Ditch Defense Cuts

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have a simple message for conferees starting to hash out a budget deal next week: Do something about automatic defense spending cuts.

As the House and Senate prepare for their first budget conference in four years, 30 of the 34 Republicans on the Armed Services panel wrote a letter decrying the effects of sequestration,saying, “The concern of a hollowing of the force is very real; indeed, the readiness of our forces has already eroded.”

“Continued sequestration would lead to the reduction of an additional 100,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from our Armed Forces, and cancellation of important programs providing key technologies and capabilities that allow our military to stay ahead of the threat,” the letter said.

Conspicuously missing from the Republican signatories are four lawmakers: Mike Coffman of Colorado, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Rich Nugent of Florida.

Read More on Roll Call: GOP Hawks Want Budget Conferees to Ditch Defense Cuts

Obama to House GOP: Pass Immigration This Year

President Barack Obama, in a Thursday speech at the White House, implored House Republicans not to wait until next year to take up an immigration overhaul.

“Let’s see if we can get this done. And let’s see if we can get this done this year,” Obama said, adding that waiting would not make it any easier to accomplish.

He said there is time to get an immigration bill done and reiterated his talking points about the legislation boosting the economy and having bipartisan support. He said Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to act on the things they agree on.

Read More on Roll Call: Obama to House GOP: Pass Immigration This Year

Sebelius’ Tenure as Obamacare Overseer Hangs With Vulnerable Democrats

Will the star witness who isn’t there become the sacrificial secretary?

Thursday’s marquee hearing at an otherwise quiet Capitol takes place at House Energy and Commerce. That’s where Republicans will launch their public investigation into what’s really wrong with HealthCare.gov and who’s really responsible for the centerpiece of the new health insurance marketplace that’s become such a wobbly mess.

Officials from four of the 55 contractors will testify, but no one from the Obama administration will appear. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided to spend the day out on the hustings, touting the benefits of the health care law across the Southwest. She has agreed to come before the committee next week instead.

It will be little surprise if the corporate executives, taking advantage of her absence as a rebuttal witness, push as much blame as possible for the online morass toward their government customers. What will be more newsworthy is if the wall of Democratic support for Sebelius starts to crumble.

Read More on Roll Call: Sebelius’ Tenure as Obamacare Overseer Hangs With Vulnerable Democrats

John Boehner Gets Democratic Challenger

Miami University of Ohio professor Tom Poetter announced this week that he will challenge Speaker John A. Boehner in Ohio’s 8th District, marking the first Democrat to try to oust the top House Republican this cycle.

Poetter, an education professor at Miami University, has also directed the university’s Partnership Office, which helps the university reach out to the surrounding community.

Read More on Roll Call: John Boehner Gets Democratic Challenger