Lawmakers grow confident deal will be reached by weekend

Lawmakers grow confident deal will be reached by weekend

Optimism is growing that lawmakers will reach a deal in the next day or two on taxes and spending that would allow Congress to leave for the year this weekend.

Senators in both parties said they are growing more confident that a deal to extend the payroll-tax holiday and fund the government in 2012 will soon be reached.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann Murkowski13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Trump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' MORE (R-Alaska) said she has booked flights to her home state on Friday and Saturday and would look into making a reservation on Sunday, too.

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Sens. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Dem plays audio from child detention center on Senate floor MORE (R-Texas) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHillicon Valley: Verizon, AT&T call off data partnerships after pressure | Tech speaks out against Trump family separation policy | T-Mobile, Sprint make case for B merger Senators introduce bipartisan bill to detect supply chain risks posing threats to national security Manchin becomes final Democrat to back bill preventing separation of immigrant families MORE (D-Mo.) said they expected a deal in time for lawmakers to leave town Saturday night, statements that reflected the emerging consensus among senators who voted to pass the Defense authorization bill Thursday afternoon.

In the House, Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranLawmakers, media serve up laughs at annual 'Will on the Hill' Dems face close polls in must-win Virginia Billionaire Trump donor hires lobbyists to help vets MORE said it was his “hope and expectation” that lawmakers would sign off on the conference report for the omnibus package Thursday, and that the legislation would receive a floor vote Friday.

Republicans in the House signaled confidence that they could move an omnibus bill Friday with scant Democratic support, while Senate Democrats showed new flexibilities. The rhetoric from both parties suggested the new leverage Republicans have gained by passing their own version of the payroll-tax-holiday extension.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusClients’ Cohen ties become PR liability Green Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana Business groups worried about Trump's China tariffs plan MORE (D-Mont.) said the millionaires surtax long demanded by Democrats and President Obama as an offset for the payroll-tax-cut extension is no longer a part of the negotiations.

“Theres momentum building toward a comprehensive agreement, but there are still a lot of pieces out there,” Baucus said.

He added that language expediting the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, included in the House-passed payroll-tax bill, is still in the mix.

Republicans and Democrats alike in the upper chamber caution that big questions, such as whether the entire cost of the legislation must be offset, will depend largely on what can win approval from House conservatives. Lawmakers remain in the dark about many of the details of the closely guarded talks between Senate and House leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWarren on family separation policy: Trump is ‘taking America to a dark and ugly place’ Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Schumer rejects GOP proposal to address border crisis MORE (R-Ky.) sounded a more optimistic tone Thursday morning, informing colleagues that agreement is within reach.

Reid said he has negotiated with McConnell and senior White House officials on the payroll-tax cut, extended unemployment benefits and a freeze of scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare payments, and is hopeful of an imminent resolution.

“We hope that we can come up with something that would get us out of here at a reasonable time in the next few days,” Reid said.

McConnell said he and Reid have “been in useful discussions about how to wrap the session up.”

He said leaders are “confident and optimistic we’ll be able to resolve” the omnibus and tax bills “on a bipartisan basis.”

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families IBM-led coalition pushes senators for action on better tech skills training Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms MORE (Tenn.) noted that the leaders’ comments were “more temperate” than on Wednesday and “reflect a holiday spirit that will lead us to an ordered and dignified conclusion.”

While Reid is willing to drop the proposed tax increase on millionaires, a Democratic aide said the leader opposes cutting discretionary spending any further to pay for the package, leaving mandatory spending cuts as the primary offset for a package that could exceed $200 billion — on top of the $915 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Senate Republicans earlier in the day discussed a possible compromise that would remove language speeding up a decision on Keystone but include an ironclad commitment to bring it before the chamber at a later date.

But it remains possible that the Keystone language, which Obama has said he would “reject,” could pass the Senate.

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (D-La.) said Keystone has the backing of several Democrats.

“It’s always had more Democratic support than people thought,” she said.

McConnell thinks there are as many as 14 Democrats who might support the Keystone language.

Democratic and Republican senators said they expect the cost of the payroll-tax package to be largely offset with spending cuts as well as modest revenue-raising measures.

Lawmakers noted the deficit-reduction supercommittee, which negotiated spending cuts and tax increases throughout the fall, had put together a list of bipartisan offsets that could be used to pay for the package.

“They put together good lists,” said a GOP senator. “You can just reach in and pull out ideas to pay for the package.”

Lawmakers said they expected the payroll-tax-holiday extension, the unemployment-benefit extension, the doctors’ fix and the extension of expiring business tax provisions to be entirely offset.

“I don’t think the House Republicans will accept anything that adds to the deficit,” said one Republican senator, who said GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber would follow the lead of House Republicans.

But Senate leadership aides would not say whether the entire price tag of the legislation could be offset.

It remains to be seen whether Republicans will accept project savings from the drawdown of troops in Iraq, an offset they derided as a budget gimmick during supercommittee talks.

Democrats argued that war savings are fair game, noting that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump vows to stand with House GOP '1,000 percent' on immigration Heckler yells ‘Mr. President, f--- you’ as Trump arrives at Capitol Hoyer: GOP centrists 'sold out' Dreamers MORE (R-Wis.) included them in his budget blueprint released earlier this year.

— Erik Wasson contributed to this report.