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 McConnellKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Biden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (R-Ky.) invited Senate Republican colleagues to a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWorld Bank approves billion-plus annual China lending plan despite US objections On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Hillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC MORE and White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Gaetz defends Ukraine call: Trump acted on 'sincere' concerns of corruption Judiciary Democrat says House should focus on Ukraine, avoid Mueller report in articles of impeachment 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 ShelbyDemocrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks On The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal 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 BluntTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Overnight Defense: Trump cancels presser, cuts short NATO trip | Viral video catches leaders appearing to gossip about Trump | Dem witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses | Trump reportedly mulling more troops in Middle East Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Mo.), chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The Hill's Morning Report - Dem impeachment report highlights phone records MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Interior subcommittee, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham expects Horowitz investigation to show evidence was manipulated, withheld Trump's exceptionalism: No president has so disrespected our exceptional institutions Trump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe 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 BoozmanThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides MORE (R-Ark.), chairman of the Military Construction subcommittee, and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms 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 LeahyTrump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members 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 TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE to review. He also said Senate Republicans will pass along a new Republican offer to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing White House, Democrats strike tentative deal to create Space Force in exchange for federal parental leave benefits: report Trump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests 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 SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP 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.