Top Senate Dem warns GOP: Deal now on spending limits or face shutdown

Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Feds can learn lessons from states about using data to inform policy Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries MORE (D-Wash.) on Wednesday warned Republicans that if they don’t reach another bipartisan deal to lift spending ceilings, they risk causing another government shutdown this fall.

“So Republicans have a choice, and it’s the same choice they faced in 2013. They can either work with us early on a bipartisan budget deal that will set the topline budget levels and allow the Appropriations Committee to work on bills that can be signed into law,” Murray said Wednesday afternoon at a legislative seminar hosted by law firm BakerHostetler.

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“Or, they can wait until we reach a crisis, until we approach or hit another completely unnecessary government shutdown—and work with us then,” she said.

Murray was the co-architect of a deal reached with Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Finance: GOP faces dilemma on spending bills | CEOs push Congress on tax rules | Trump talks energy MORE (R-Wis.) in December 2013 that eased sequestration spending limits for two years.

That deal expires at the end of September, and Republicans have been moving through appropriations bills that are based on the sequestration caps. Senate Democrats are threatening to block each GOP spending bill based on those levels.

“Right now, Republicans are moving spending bills through the committee that have absolutely no chance of becoming law,” Murray said.

Murray said the best way to pressure Republicans to come to the negotiating table is for Democrats to be “loud and clear” about their opposition to the bills.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats called for a “budget summit” this month to facilitate another compromise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo McConnell-allied group: We'll back Rubio if he runs for reelection MORE (R-Ky.), however, rejected the idea of holding a summit now.

The 2013 Ryan-Murray deal came after Congress was unable to agree on individual appropriations bills that summer and a 16-day government shutdown that October.

Lawmakers already have a model to work from, says Murray, who will lay out components of a possible plan.

“First, we don’t need to aim for a big deal,” she said. “Second, the automatic cuts need to be rolled back evenly across defense and non-defense investments. This is non-negotiable.”

Republicans are only proposing a boost to the Pentagon through a war fund that many lawmakers consider a “budget gimmick.”

“Third, the replacement should consist of a responsible mix of spending cuts and new revenue,” Murray said.

If Republicans refuse to close tax loopholes, Murray said, “We are open to Republican ideas about where that revenue can come from—as long as the deal is truly fair for our constituents.”

Just a few weeks ago, however, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said at an annual fiscal summit that the GOP would not agree to any tax increases and would rather find savings in mandatory spending.

“The choice is in Republican leaders’ hands. Work together now and avoid a crisis — or work together later while we’re in a crisis,” Murray said.

So far, the House has passed five out of a dozen spending bills. The House begins consideration of a bill funding the Pentagon on Wednesday. The latest bill to pass one funding transportation and housing programs, which was approved by a razor-thin margin, 216-210, late Tuesday.

- Updated at 2:37 p.m.