WASHINGTON - Despite the poisonous environment in Congress, chances are improving for a small-scale budget deal next month that would ease automatic spending decreases that threaten to cut more deeply into domestic programs and military priorities in 2014.
Democrats won't get Republicans to agree to higher taxes, nor will Republicans get Democrats to address the exploding cost of retirement programs.
But a mutual desire to avert another government shutdown sets the stage for splitting the $91 billion difference between what Senate Democrats and House Republicans want to spend next year on operating budgets of the Pentagon and domestic agencies.
Both House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and his counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, profess optimism while working hard to minimize potentially damaging leaks that could derail their efforts.
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