Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal

Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal
© Greg Nash
 
The talks, which have been spearheaded by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHoyer: House should vote on COVID-19 aid — with or without a bipartisan deal Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at Supreme Court McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities MORE, are down to one major outstanding issue: What level of spending cuts, or offsets, will be included to help pay for the budget agreement. 
 
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"That's what we're discussing. We're close. And I think there's a desire to come to an agreement from all of us. My worry here [is] …  if Mulvaney tries to be too hard on the offset side that we wouldn't come to an agreement," Schumer told reporters Thursday afternoon. 
 
He added that he hoped Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus known for taking hard-line positions on spending, would let Mnuchin and congressional Democrats "come to the agreement and I think we could get it quite soon." 
 
"You always worry because Mulvaney is such a hard liner on these issues, that you always worry. But we'll see. Let's hope. Let's hope that cooler heads prevail and we come to an agreement soon," Schumer said. 
 
As of Wednesday, discussions over the cuts was one of two major hurdles remaining in the budget talks. 
 
The second was how to include more than $20 billion for veterans health care. Democrats didn't want it included in the budget caps because they were worried they would have to cut from other areas to help pay for it. But senators indicated on Thursday that they believe those negotiations have been resolved, though they declined to say how. 
 
"It's my understanding that [Mnuchin] and Pelosi have reached some kind of understanding, we'll call it in principle" on a budget deal, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate GOP eyes early exit Dems discussing government funding bill into February GOP short of votes on Trump's controversial Fed pick MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters earlier Thursday. 
 
Schumer stopped short of echoing Shelby's language. Asked if he thought they had an agreement in principle aside from the discussions over offsets, he said that "offsets is the major outstanding issue." 
 
"There's two issues with it: One is the number and the other is what the offsets are. Offsets haven't stood in the way in previous deals," he said. 
 
The administration is pushing for roughly $150 billion in offsets to be included in a budget deal. Schumer declined to say how much Democrats would support saying he's "not going to get into numbers." 
 
There are signs of a rift within the Trump administration over the looming agreement. 
 
After Pelosi told reporters she wanted a deal by Friday night, a senior administration official hit back at the Speaker accusing her of "happy talk" and that there was still "a way to go" in the negotiations. 
 
The "new timeline sounds like happy talk from the speaker who has been absent from talks for the last three months and now is trying to create momentum after a bad couple weeks," the official said. 
 
But Mnuchin appeared optimistic when he appeared on CNBC saying they had agreed on top-line defense and nondefense numbers. The two remaining issues, he said, were the discussions over what level of offsets would be included and "structural issues."