McConnell optimistic on budget deal

McConnell optimistic on budget deal
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that congressional leaders hope to reach a budget deal with senior White House officials by the end of the day.

McConnell described a two-hour meeting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office (D-Calif.) as “a very encouraging meeting.”

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“We are anxious to agree to a caps agreement. We met for two hours,” McConnell told reporters. “Our hope is to make a deal before the day is over.”

“I’ve been a lot of these meetings over the years — and I don’t want to be too forward leaning in predicting an agreement, but it seems to me without exception everyone would like to,” he said.

“The agreement would be a two-year caps deal which would allow us to go forward” with the appropriations process, McConnell said.

McConnell said a deal on spending caps is likely to be combined with legislation to raise the debt limit, echoing something Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said earlier in the day.

McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for more than two hours Tuesday morning.

The leaders and White House officials will reconvene at 4:15 pm in hopes of wrapping up the talks before Wednesday.

McConnell said he also expects the House will soon send across the Capitol a bipartisan disaster relief spending package that will receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Asked how he could be confident that Trump will sign any spending deal negotiated with Mnuchin and Mulvaney, McConnell said he had an encouraging meeting with Trump last week. 

“I had a really good session with the president, just the two of us, about a week ago about the options available to us when it comes to government spending over the next two years,” he said.

“A negotiated agreement with the House Democrats is the best of three alternatives, the other two being arguing back and forth over the length of a [continuing resolution] for God only knows how long, or a sequester that hits defense with about $71 billion cut at the end of the year,” he added.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (N.Y.), however, warned that the two sides still need to resolve a disagreement over how much to increase funding for non-defense programs.

“We’re working hard on it. It was a good, productive meeting. There are still some significant issues outstanding, particularly the domestic-side spending issues. Things like health care, infrastructure and things that average middle-class folks need,” he said. 

Updated at 3:37 p.m.