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Administration pushes back on quick budget deal: 'We have a way to go'

Administration pushes back on quick budget deal: 'We have a way to go'
© Greg Nash
The administration sent a warning shot Wednesday amid growing optimism about the chances of a quick budget deal, saying that the negotiations have "a way to go." 
 
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE's (D-Calif.) "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," a senior administration official told The Washington Post and Politico
 
The official added that "the reality is, we have a way to go." 
 
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The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night. 
 
But the pushback is contradictory to the growing optimism among lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE are closing in on a two-year budget agreement, which would also lift the debt ceiling through mid-2021. 
 
 
"We're optimistic right now," Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. 
 
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.) talked with Mnuchin on the phone Wednesday for a half hour, two aides confirmed. Pelosi and Mnuchin have also talked several times during the past week. 
 
Pelosi, after the phone call on Wednesday, told reporters that she wants the House to pass a combined budget-debt ceiling deal by next Thursday, when they are scheduled to leave for the August recess. 
 
To meet that timeline Pelosi said she wants the budget deal written by Friday night, giving negotiators less than two days to hash out the final details of an agreement. 
 
"So if we are talking about next Thursday being on the floor, we have to back up almost to this Friday to have an agreement reached so that we can duly note it because under the new rules we don't count weekends in the 72-hour notice," Pelosi said during a press conference. 
 
Negotiators are drawing close to having a two-year budget deal, but a few key sticking points still remain unresolved. 
 
The administration, for example, wants to offset some of the spending by making cuts in other areas. Republicans are also looking for a guarantee from Pelosi that House Democrats won't load up government funding bills later this year with "poison pill" riders, or proposals that would be political non-starters for Republicans. 
 
Lawmakers are also still haggling over how to include more than $20 billion in spending for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care program. 
 
Pelosi, in a recent letter to Mnuchin, publicly laid out her demands, including $9 billion in additional funds in fiscal 2020 and $13 billion in additional funds in fiscal 2021 for the VA Mission Act, which overhauled how the VA handles health care.
 
Republicans wanted to pay for the VA Mission Act under the budget caps, but Democrats worried that would force them to make $9 billion of cuts to other programs in 2019 and another $13 billion in 2020. Instead, they want to ensure those payments don’t count toward the caps.
 
Shelby, on Wednesday, referred to the talks over the VA money as the "linchpin."