McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal

McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatient advocates launch drug pricing ad campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House MORE (R-Ky.) invited Senate Republican colleagues to a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSchumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy Trump hypes China trade deal as new doubts emerge MORE and White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy Tensions flare as Democrats urge consumer bureau to boost penalties White House conducting probe into handling of Ukraine call transcript: report MORE Wednesday in a renewed attempt to sell the White House on a two-year spending deal.

McConnell brought in Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' Senate eyes attempt to jump-start government funding bills Meet Trump's most trusted pollsters MORE (R-Ala.) and several appropriations cardinals, the chairmen of powerful subcommittees, to underscore his argument that a two-year deal on spending caps is essential to avoiding big cuts to defense spending at year’s end.  

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Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' Senate eyes attempt to jump-start government funding bills The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy MORE (R-Mo.), chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Democrats can lose Trump impeachment battle and still win electoral war MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Interior subcommittee, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCheney unveils Turkey sanctions legislation Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), chairwoman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee, John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (R-Ark.), chairman of the Military Construction subcommittee, and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (R-N.D.), chairman of the Agriculture subcommittee, also attended the meeting.

A Senate Republican lawmaker with knowledge of the agenda said the purpose of the meeting was to sell the White House on accepting a two-year spending caps deal with Democrats.

The source said that Shelby and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senator questions agencies on suicide prevention, response after Epstein's death in federal custody During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration MORE (Vt.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, have sketched out a possible rough deal.

Shelby told reporters after the meeting that Mnuchin and Mulvaney will bring a proposal back to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE to review. He also said Senate Republicans will pass along a new Republican offer to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Trump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' Trump threat lacks teeth to block impeachment witnesses MORE (D-Calif.).

“We will be meeting again,” Shelby said. “We discussed things in pretty good detail.”

“Did we crystalize it? No. We didn’t think we’d crystalize it today, but we’re making some progress. But we have some unanswered questions that need to be answered,” he added.

“We’re going to have to be looking at spending caps or sequestration. Sequestration would be devastating to national security in a troubled world we live in,” Shelby said, summarizing the argument that GOP senators are making to the White House.

If Trump and Senate and House leaders fail to reach a deal to raise the spending caps, the automatic cuts known as sequestration set up by the 2011 Budget Control Act will take effect in January.

Asked whether Mnuchin and Mulvaney appeared moved by the prospect of steep cuts to defense programs, Shelby said, “I think so.”

Mnuchin told reporters after the meeting that the White House will agree to link a spending caps deal with legislation to raise the federal debt limit past the 2020 election, a victory for Senate leaders who want to take care of the nation’s most pressing fiscal business with one deal.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPelosi fires back after Trump 'meltdown': 'We have to pray for his health' 5 big wins in US-China trade pact Trump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe MORE (N.Y.) said White House officials agreed to link the spending deal to raising the debt limit at a meeting last month, but Mnuchin confirmed it Wednesday.

“Our preference is if we reach a caps deal, the debt ceiling has to be included,” he said.

Mnuchin also said he will brief Trump on the results of the meeting.

“We wouldn’t reach any agreement without the president being fully on board. He’s fully briefed on all our conversations,” he said.

If McConnell and Shelby can’t clinch a deal on new spending caps, the Senate will have to come up with its own top-line numbers to move forward with spending bills, a strategy the Democratic-controlled House has already adopted.

Shelby said he’d prefer to reach a deal with the White House instead of move spending bills through the Senate with the prospect that Trump may veto them later this year.

“We’ve been discussing whether to move forward, deem something, assume something — but we’d rather do it with certainty,” he said.

One Republican senator expressed optimism that McConnell will be able to convince Mulvaney, a former member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, to accept a two-year spending deal, even though it increases the deficit.

“We actually feel pretty good about it,” said the lawmaker. “There are some folks in the White House that in a vacuum wouldn’t mind if the wheels fell off [a budget deal.] We’d spend less money.”

But the lawmaker said that would send a bad signal to allies around the world as it would likely result in a severe defense spending cut.