Top negotiators from the House and Senate have reached a long-stalled deal on top-line spending figures for the fiscal 2020 bills.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have settled on 302(b)s, which set the top-line number for each of the 12 government funding bills, two sources familiar with the negotiations told The Hill.
The Friday night agreement marks a breakthrough for the government funding negotiations. It comes after days of behind-the-scenes negotiations, including back-and-forth funding offers, between Senate Republicans and House Democrats as they hunted for a path to a deal.
Congress passed another stopgap spending bill this week, giving lawmakers until Dec. 20 to prevent a shutdown. To do that, they’ll either need to pass the fiscal 2020 bills or another continuing resolution (CR).
Though the House has passed 10 of the 12 fiscal 2020 bills and the Senate has passed four, lawmakers hadn’t been able to reach a final deal on any of them as they awaited the deal on the top-line numbers.
Shelby and Lowey, according to sources, want to pass each of the 12 funding bills by Dec. 20. That gives them less than a month, and roughly 15 session days, to iron out the details of the funding bills and get them through both chambers.
“The subcommittees are getting to work immediately in an effort to pass all 12 bills before the CR expires on Dec. 20,” a source familiar with the talks added about the agreement.
The deal on subcommittee allocations adheres to the defense and nondefense caps agreed to as part of a two-year budget deal announced in July. Under that agreement, overall defense spending was $738 billion for fiscal 2020, while nondefense spending was $632 billion.
The agreement between Shelby and Lowey does not resolve a looming fight over the border wall; the House included no money for new border barriers in its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill, while the Senate included $5 billion for the border in DHS as well as an additional $3.6 billion that could be reprogrammed from military projects to the border.
Democrats are also eager to block President Trump from reprogramming funds for the wall under emergency powers, a major sticking point with Republicans.
Under the agreement between Shelby and Lowey, it’s now up to the subcommittees to try to work out myriad policy differences, including the wall.
“Individual funding items are being left to the subcommittees in keeping with long-standing committee practice,” a second source said.
In addition to money for the border wall, other policy fights — including policies related to abortion and the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement beds — are expected to be major roadblocks for negotiators as they draft the fiscal 2020 bills.
While many members have been skeptical that it would be possible to pass 12 appropriations bills by the new December deadline, sources expressed optimism that the timeline was achievable. Lowey and Shelby’s ability to strike a deal on the allocations had been a major stumbling block for weeks. Appropriators had noted that without a deal before Thanksgiving, the new deadline was ambitious.
“If they can get those numbers done, I still think we have time to get those bills done before the end of the year when we get back,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an appropriator, said ahead of the deal Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Trump to stay out of the funding negotiations as lawmakers head toward the Dec. 20 deadline.
“On the first path, President Trump stays out of our way and gives Congress the space to work together and find an agreement,” he said. “On the second path, President Trump stomps his feet, makes impossible demands, and prevents his party, the Republicans, from coming to a fair arrangement.”