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 SessionsHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday afternoon as he left a GOP leadership meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas 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 MeadowsClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump The Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan 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 TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 McCarthyClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe MORE (R-Calif.) smiled confidently and nodded his head. 

A spokesman for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November The Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution Two years after Maria, Puerto Rico awaits disaster funds 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 SlaughterSotomayor, Angela Davis formally inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter Breaking through the boys club MORE (D-N.Y.), who died last week. 

Melanie Zanona and Scott Wong contributed.