Senate

McConnell, Schumer lay down goals for budget talks

The Senate's top two members laid down goal posts for budget talks on Wednesday, ahead of a meeting with the White House to try to hammer out a budget deal and tackle other outstanding legislation. 

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to detail their priorities for any agreement, while urging the other party to compromise. 

 

"The Senate will need to tackle a number of important issues this year. It's my sincere hope that we can do so in a renewed spirit of comity, collegiality and bipartisanship. I note that colleagues on both sides of the aisle share the hope and it's urgent that we make it a reality," McConnell said. 

 

McConnell pointed to the Jan. 19 deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Congress must also reach a deal on the budget to prevent automatic across-the-board spending cuts under the Budget Control Act. 

 

McConnell, Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are scheduled to meet with Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget chief, and Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. 

 

The White House and top lawmakers have been negotiating for weeks but failed to lock down an agreement. 

 

Democrats' push for parity between increases on defense and nondefense spending had emerged as one sticking point. McConnell urged them on Wednesday to "set aside" the demand.  

 

"There is no reason why funding for our national security and our service members should be limited by an arbitrary political formula that bears no relationship to actual need," he said. 

 

Republicans argue that years of declining budgets have hollowed out the U.S. military and left it unable to keep up with a myriad of international threats. 

 

Democrats are also expected to bring up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration announced last year it would end. 

 

Democratic leadership took fire from progressives and immigration activists after they left Washington last month without an agreement that linked DACA to border security. 

 

Schumer, saying 2017 was "not a year to be proud of," urged Republicans and President Trump to "engage in good faith" on DACA, as well as other issues including the Children's Health Insurance Program and disaster aid. 

 

"In contrast to a year of chaos and ineffectiveness, a year in which little was accomplished, and what was done was done for the wealthy and narrow special interests, I hope this year can be one of bipartisanship," Schumer said. 

 

He added that he believes a deal could be reached on DACA if Republicans set aside "unreasonable demands like an absurdly expensive, ineffective border wall that publicly many Republicans oppose, and privately many more do."

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