Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal

Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal
© Greg Nash

“We’re going to work over the weekend and I’m very positive,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal under coronavirus threat MORE (D-N.Y.). “I hope we’ll complete the work by the weekend.”

The House, Senate and White House face a Dec. 20 deadline to reach a deal, or they will be forced to approve a stopgap measure. With no new legislation, the government would shut down.

The 12 appropriations subcommittees, each of which deal with one of the 12 annual spending bills, are expected to hand their results to the committee’s top Republicans and Democrats by day’s end, leaving the most contentious issues for the weekend talks. 

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Lawmakers hinted that leadership would have to work out any remaining issues by the middle of next week in order to avoid kicking the can down the road.

Among the most contentious issues are the $5 billion President Trump requested to build his proposed border wall, plus another $3.6 billion to backfill military construction accounts he redirected toward the wall under emergency powers. Democrats are also targeting Trump’s ability to use transfer authority to redirect funds for the wall, pushing to reduce the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement beds and challenging administration policy on abortion.

Trump remains the wild card in the talks. His last-minute reversal on a stopgap measure that didn't include money for his wall led to a 35-day shutdown that began last December. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Coronavirus bill includes more than billion in SNAP funding MORE (R-Ala.) spoke with Trump on Thursday night about the bills. A source familiar with the conversation said Trump was positive and encouraging about cooperation, despite reports in recent days that he would consider blocking bills without a satisfactory result on the wall.

But while Lowey expressed her usual brand of optimism ahead of the talks, others were less upbeat. Shelby said Thursday that he was less hopeful and floated the possibility of a stopgap going into March.

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House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Pelosi, Democrats using coronavirus to push for big tax cuts for blue state residents US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired MORE (D-Calif.) said a stopgap measure could be much shorter.

“We would just to go to a [continuing] resolution until couple, you know, until after Christmas,” she said at a CNN town hall Thursday night.

She did not expect a shutdown, she added.

The sides have found consensus on many of the bills.

“It’s pretty well buttoned down,” said Rep. Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturOvernight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain GOP lawmaker accuses administration of 'playing politics' with Yucca Mountain reversal Five things to watch in Trump's budget proposal MORE (D-Ohio), who heads the House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee. “My job is pretty much finished.”

But Democrats have broadly opposed passing any of the bills until there is agreement on all of them. Several continue to present challenges on hot-button political issues, including immigration and abortion.

“We’re concerned about the policy provisions. We have not been able to resolve all of those,” said Rep. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersBottom line Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (Ky.), the top Republican on the state and foreign operations subcommittee.

“But that’s the way it always is,” he added.