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 SessionsFormer FBI Director William Sessions dies at age 90 Texas kicks off critical battle for House control The Hill's review of John Solomon's columns on Ukraine MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday afternoon as he left a GOP leadership meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world 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 MeadowsMeadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Trump wears mask during visit to Walter Reed Barr recommended Trump not give Stone clemency: report 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 TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' 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 McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.) smiled confidently and nodded his head. 

A spokesman for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending 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 SlaughterHouse passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Sotomayor, Angela Davis formally inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE (D-N.Y.), who died last week. 

Melanie Zanona and Scott Wong contributed.