House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal

House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal
© Greg Nash

The conservative House Freedom Caucus and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Wis.) are inching closer toward a deal to avert a shutdown and fund the government through Dec. 22, though some sticking points still remain.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-N.C.) and the group’s former leader, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight MORE (R-Ohio), emerged from a meeting in Ryan’s office Wednesday morning saying they are making progress on a deal and have had productive discussions with leadership.

An announcement could be reached within “hours,” Meadows told reporters.


“We're still working hard to try to get to an agreement. We’re making good progress,” he added. “Nothing’s decided yet.”

While the conservative bloc had pushed for a continuing resolution that funds the government past Christmas, they appear to be open to a spending bill through Dec. 22. Current funding for fiscal 2018 runs out Friday at midnight.

But now, Meadows said, the debate is centered on the game plan after Dec. 22, when Congress will likely need to pass another short-term spending bill to keep the government’s lights on into the new year.

Members of the Freedom Caucus, along with defense hawks in Congress, are pressing leadership to commit to passing a separate defense spending bill alongside a second continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government. They have raised concern that short-term spending bills are harmful for the military.

“Much of what we have been talking about is — how do you break out that defense spending from the non-defense discretionary?” Meadows said. “A lot of it has been looking at how do we do that, and how committed our leadership is to supporting the initiative.”

Republicans have in the past had to rely on House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid Congress can unite on global affairs MORE (D-Calif.) and the Democrats to pass stopgap funding bills. But House Republicans are trying to muster the 218 votes needed to send a continuing resolution to the Senate on their own.

“It’s what’s taking so much time in our deliberations,” Meadows said. “We’re hopeful that in the next few hours, we’ll be able to figure out a strategy where we don’t rely on any Democrats to make this work. This is all about making sure we can do it in the House with enough votes on our own.”

That strategy, however, does not take into account the political calculus in the Senate, where at least eight Democratic votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster. Democrats have largely panned the idea of passing a separate spending bill to boost funding for the Pentagon without also addressing domestic priorities.

Meadows said there could be a “few other” incentives in the spending bills that could make it more difficult for Democrats to oppose, including funding for the expiring Children’s Health Insurance Program and supplemental funding for disaster relief efforts.

“That’s some of what is being discussed, without giving you full details,” Meadows said.

While the Freedom Caucus opposes linking a pair of bipartisan ObamaCare fixes to any spending bill, Meadows signaled that there could be some openness to that idea among some Republicans, though it hasn’t been a part of the discussions.

“Let me just tell you: if Alexander-Murray would break the defense/nondefense wall? That would be a price many would be willing to pay,” Meadows said, referring to legislation crafted by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBlackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands  Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Judge urges insurers to drop challenge over non-ObamaCare plans | Azar vows to push ahead with drug pricing proposal | No increase for ObamaCare outreach budget Dems blast Trump rule changes on ObamaCare MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Dem senators want hearing on funding for detained migrant children Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump insists GOP will 'totally' protect people with pre-existing conditions | Landmark opioid bill signed into law | Report finds agencies blindsided by 'zero tolerance' policy MORE (D-Wash.). It would provide two years of funding for key payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, increase state flexibility and allow anyone to buy catastrophic health coverage, regardless of age.

But President Trump, who has reportedly flirted with the idea of a government shutdown to confront Democrats, warned on Wednesday that a shutdown “could happen” Saturday.

Meadows, who has had multiple phone calls with Trump throughout the week, said the president "supports making sure that we have our military funded."

"That's the biggest thing," Meadows said.

This report was updated at 1:00 p.m.