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 SessionsTrump: Republicans' and my poll numbers would be higher if not for Mueller's 'witch hunt' Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’ Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday afternoon as he left a GOP leadership meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker 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 MeadowsGraham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests Graham: Obama, not Trump, politicized DOJ and FBI 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 TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) smiled confidently and nodded his head. 

A spokesman for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress sends first spending package to Trump in push to avert shutdown The stakes are sky-high for the pro-life cause in the upcoming midterms Dems urge Mattis to reject using 0M for border wall 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 SlaughterPoll: Dem leads by 24 points in race to replace Louise Slaughter Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain GOP Rep. Chris Collins charged with insider trading MORE (D-N.Y.), who died last week. 

Melanie Zanona and Scott Wong contributed.