Spending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say

Spending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are hoping to finalize an enormous 2018 spending package before midnight on Monday, but the path to a bipartisan deal remains hindered by a handful of tough issues still to be ironed out, according to numerous sources familiar with the talks.

“The effort is to finalize it this evening,” Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson Sessions Nunes leaves in middle of hearing following questions on Russia probe Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Immigration overhaul on life support in the House MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday afternoon as he left a GOP leadership meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record Tampons sent to Dem who called for free feminine hygiene products in House MORE’s (R-Wis.) Capitol office. 

“The plan at this point is to then post it. But it hasn’t happened yet, and we’re not promising it’s going to happen.”

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Sessions said there are “five or six” issues — “not 12” — that are holding up an agreement. He mentioned three issues by name: abortion restrictions; border security funding; and the Gateway rail project, a rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River that’s been championed by bipartisan lawmakers from New York and New Jersey.

“You know, you generally save the things that are hardest to last,” Sessions said. “You try to undo as many knots as you can, and that is where those final negotiations are going on right now.” 

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, on Monday also singled out the Gateway funding as a continued barrier to a deal.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE has threatened to veto the omnibus package if it includes the Gateway project. A failure of Congress to pass a spending bill will lead to a partial government shutdown at the end of Friday, when current funding expires.

Asked if Congress will avoid a shutdown, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyElon Musk donated nearly K to Republican PAC, filings show Eric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain MORE (R-Calif.) smiled confidently and nodded his head. 

A spokesman for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyClash looms over ICE funding Senate chairman urges move to two-year budgetary process Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight MORE (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the sticking points are related to border security and the Gateway project, but negotiators remain hopeful that a bill would be introduced Monday.

The GOP leadership meeting came shortly before the entire Republican conference will huddle in the Capitol basement, where appropriators will brief the other lawmakers on the negotiations. 

House GOP leaders had hoped to introduce the omnibus bill on Monday, setting the stage for a vote on Wednesday. A delay in the release would likely push the vote further into the week, leaving the Senate with less time to move the package through the  upper chamber.  

The week’s calendar is also being complicated by the threat of severe weather, which is expected to hit the Washington region Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Friday funeral of the late Rep. Louise SlaughterDorothy (Louise) Louise SlaughterRaces to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Our democracy demands weekend voting Lawmakers remember Slaughter in Capitol ceremony MORE (D-N.Y.), who died last week. 

Melanie Zanona and Scott Wong contributed.