Negotiators reach ‘breakthrough’ in government funding talks
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that negotiators have reached a “breakthrough” agreement on the framework for an omnibus spending package that he predicts will help the two sides agree to the spending top lines very soon.
“We have reached an agreement on framework,” Shelby told The Hill shortly before noon.
He said the top-line spending numbers for defense and nondefense discretionary programs, which have been a major sticking point in the talks, “will come from that” framework.
He called the development “big.”
Shelby later confirmed the breakthrough development in talks with Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the ranking Republican on the House panel.
“We have reached an understanding on the framework, which lets us go to the next step,” he told a group of reporters in the Senate subway. “I believe this is a breakthrough in a bipartisan way.”
Shelby, however, declined to go into more detail or comment specifically if the disagreement between Democratic and Republican negotiators over policy riders had been resolved.
He added that the framework deal “puts us in a great position to move forward.”
A person familiar with the framework agreement said the leaders of the Senate and House appropriations committees have agreed on top-line numbers for defense and non-defense spending but aren’t ready to release them publicly.
Leahy confirmed that he and the other members of the “four corners” — Shelby, DeLauro and Granger — made major progress during a late-night phone call Tuesday.
“When was our last call? About 10 o’clock last night,” he said. “I’m far more optimistic than I’ve been in months and I think we’re on a path to finish something.”
Pressed on whether the negotiators had agreed on the thorny question of how much to increase funding for non-defense discretionary programs compared to defense programs, Leahy said: “I’m very confident we’re on a path to finish with something that can be strongly supported.”
Leahy said he commended DeLauro and Granger for marshaling strong bipartisan support for a three-week stop-gap funding measure to keep federal departments and agencies operating through March 11.
“We’re a wee bit tired today but I’m far more optimistic than I have been,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the agreement means that negotiators are well on their way to wrapping up work on an omnibus spending package to fund the government for the rest of 2022.
“The bicameral, bipartisan framework announced today means we’re in very good shape to complete an omnibus and avoid a CR,” he said, referring to the year-long stop-gap spending measure lawmakers would have been forced to pass without a deal.
Many senators and House members viewed a possible long-term stopgap as a disaster as it would have kept current funding levels in place, leaving various funding shortfalls unaddressed.
“This framework will not only take the possibility of a government shutdown off the table, it will also unlock long-term funding for critical federal programs,” Schumer said.
Shalanda Young, the acting director of the White House budget office, said the framework “represents a key step forward in delivering results for the American people.”
“In the days and weeks ahead, the administration looks forward to working with Congress to produce a final agreement that delivers for our communities, our economy, and our country,” she said.
DeLauro applauded the deal in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
— Updated at 7:38 p.m.
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