Lawmakers aim for agreement on top-line spending by next week

The top two lawmakers tasked with funding the government said Thursday that they want an agreement on top-line spending figures by next week. 

Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said they want to get a deal on the top-line figures, known as 302(b)s, by Wednesday. 

"We're talking about the 302(b)s and we're talking about the allocations for all of the subcommittees," Lowey told reporters after the meeting. 

Lowey added that the goal was to get the top-line figures by Wednesday. She added Democrats have given a new proposal to the Senate, but did not provide the details of that proposal. 

A House Democratic aide confirmed that they made Senate Republicans a new offer on the top-line allocations. 

"We are hopeful that we can reach agreement in the next few days. The goal is to complete agreement on allocations and get Appropriations subcommittees to work on conferencing individual bills," the aide said. 

They added that "there is a clear consensus from all parties and the White House that we must avoid a government shutdown and get our work done."  

Asked about Lowey's Nov. 20 date, Shelby added that they are "working toward that goal." 

"We had a very good conversation with the Speaker and the secretary of the Treasury," he said. "It's the best meeting we've had in months."  

A different senior Democratic aide added that the conversation was "productive" and that they hope to get a deal on the top-line allocations "as soon as possible." 

"Republicans appear willing to set aside discussing the wall for now in hopes of achieving the bipartisan goal of finalizing the allocations," the aide added. 

Shelby characterized himself as "optimistic" for the prospects of a deal and indicated the next three days would be crucial. 

In addition to Shelby and Lowey, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were in the meeting. 

The government is currently funded until Nov. 21. 

Lawmakers are expected to pass a stopgap spending bill running until Dec. 20 to buy themselves more time to work out an agreement on the top-line spending figures as well as the larger fiscal 2020 spending bills. 

The Senate passed four of its fiscal 2020 bills, while the House has passed 10. But they've come to an agreement on final versions of none of the bills, in part because of a dispute over the top-line spending figures as well as the border wall. 

Both Lowey and Shelby indicated they didn't get into the details of the wall in the closed-door meeting with Mnuchin. Lowey said the first step was to get the deal on the top-line figures for the 12 bills, and then work out the problem areas in the individual bills. 

"Once those allocations are done, then the individual committees work with the challenges and areas where there are differences," Lowey said.