Senate nears two-year deal on spending

Senate leaders on Tuesday said they are close to a two-year budget deal that could avert a government shutdown and set up a debate on immigration reform next week.

The deal would set spending levels for fiscal 2018 and 2019 and avoid the prospect of a second government shutdown Thursday when a stopgap spending measure expires.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE (R-Ky.) and Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (N.Y.) touted their progress after meeting in McConnell’s office Tuesday morning.

“I’m optimistic that very soon we’ll be able to reach an agreement,” McConnell told reporters, predicting that another shutdown this week is very unlikely.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” McConnell said of a possible shutdown. “I think we’re on the way to getting an agreement and on the way to getting an agreement very soon.”

Schumer said he also expected a deal soon that would set higher spending levels for defense and nondefense programs. 

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“I’m very pleased to report my meeting with Leader McConnell went very well. We’re making real progress on a spending deal that would increase the caps for both military and middle-class priorities on the domestic side that my colleagues have been fighting for.”

 

Schumer said some “outstanding issues” remain, but stressed he is “very hopeful” for a deal.

One issue could be House Democrats. 

Schumer won’t sign off on a final deal unless Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHouse GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE Pelosi: 'The Russians have something on the president' Schumer: Does Putin have 'damaging information' on Trump? MORE (D-Calif.) supports it, and the legislation will need the backing of House Democrats to get through that chamber, according to Democratic aides. 

Pelosi is under pressure from members of her caucus to get a commitment from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage MORE (R-Wis.) on a House vote to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children who could face deportation beginning next month.

In the Senate, McConnell has agreed to a floor debate meant to produce immigration legislation.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said these immigrants should not be left to the side and expressed anger they are not included in the initial deal being reported.

“Do you really think we’d be having this dialogue if every Planned Parenthood office were to come to a halt — I mean, shuttered. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think, however, unfortunately, it’s OK to do it to ‘Dreamers.’ It’s OK to turn your back and walk away from Dreamers. And I think that’s unfortunate.”

Under the proposed deal, the Senate would approve as early as Wednesday a stopgap measure to keep the government open for six weeks. The legislation would also include budgetary ceilings for defense and nondefense spending that reflect the Schumer-McConnell agreement.

Defense spending would be raised more than nondefense spending, breaking the dollar-for-dollar link that Democrats have insisted upon. Lawmakers said the defense spending budget cap for 2018 likely would be hiked by $80 billion, while the nondefense cap would be hiked by $63 billion.

While this would be a concession from Democrats, they agreed to a deal last spring that broke the dollar-for-dollar link. And Democrats could also get money for community health centers and disaster relief as part of the stopgap, though some of those details are still under negotiation.

The stopgap would give Congress more time to work on the longer-term omnibus funding bill, which would cover government spending for the rest of fiscal 2018.

The optimistic takes from Schumer and McConnell stood in contrast to remarks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE on Tuesday, who said he welcomed a shutdown if it would get Democrats to bend.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump said at a White House meeting.

“If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety and, unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down.”

Trump’s statement angered Schumer, but didn’t appear to put the potential agreement in any danger.

“That speaks for itself. We had one Trump shutdown, nobody wants another, maybe except him,” Schumer said.

It appears lawmakers in both parties would rather avoid more shutdowns after the three-day government stoppage in January. While Democrats were seen as getting the worst of that one , both parties are tired of the stopgap funding measures and see risks in the perpetual shutdowns.

One Republican lawmaker attending the White House meeting pushed back at Trump.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockDemocrats can kiss swing voters goodbye with progressive ballot The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Dramatic battle looms after Kennedy’s retirement Election Countdown: Kennedy retirement shakes up midterms | Big primary night for progressives | Fallout from Crowley's defeat | Trump flexes his muscles in GOP primaries | The Hill's Latina Leaders spotlights 2018 candidates MORE (Va.) said, according to a White House pool report. Comstock represents constituents in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., that includes thousands of federal workers. She’s also a top Democratic target in the midterm elections.

The House on Tuesday approved a six-week stopgap in a 245-182 vote that also includes a year of defense spending.

The current plan is for the Senate to vote on a stand-alone, yearlong defense appropriations bill as soon as Wednesday.  If leaders can’t get unanimous consent to speed up proceedings, the vote would happen Thursday, however.

That vote will almost certainly fail to reach the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster, and is intended to demonstrate that the House bill does not have enough votes to pass the Senate, according to a senior Senate aide familiar with internal deliberations.

If Democrats block a bill, McConnell could then amend the House resolution to include the budget caps.

In the House, the deal seems likely to draw opposition from conservative Republicans, though members of the House Freedom Caucus said they needed to review details before taking a position.

“It depends on what the budget caps deal is. Some of the numbers that are being talked about are obviously much higher than what conservatives would support,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFreedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ll have to look. I want to see what comes back. Are they going to put the disaster money on this? Are they going to put debt ceiling on this?” said Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanFreedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations Lawsuit alleges USA Diving ignored sexual abuse of divers GOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives MORE (R-Ohio), a former chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “I’m for increasing defense, but then holding the line on nondefense.”

Congress also needs to raise the debt ceiling soon, in part because the federal government is taking in less tax revenue after the passage of December’s tax-cut package.

Jordan argued that pairing an $81 billion disaster aid package with higher spending caps would amount to “the second-largest discretionary spending increase in a decade.”

“That would be problematic for me,” he added.

Ryan could tweak the Senate bill to make it more acceptable to conservatives and send it back to the Senate, but that would be risky with government funding due to expire on Feb. 8.

Though some House Democrats may oppose a bill without commitments on immigration, a large number are likely to support any deal that their leaders sign off on, especially if it includes increases for domestic programs, funding for community health centers and other Democratic priorities.

“We’ll have to see it, but we’re looking for a CR that provides for a resolution of our budget issues. And that means caps that get us off of the sequestration level,” said Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceDNC chair backing plan to cut superdelegates opposed by Dem lawmakers Safety advocates urge lawmakers to steer clear of larger trucks in appropriations bill Coast Guard won’t ban transgender members without direct policy barring them MORE (D-N.C.), an appropriator.

Jordain Carney, Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.