Negotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal
Senate and House negotiators say they are getting closer to a deal on setting the top-line spending number for an appropriations package to fund government past Feb. 18 and avoid a shutdown.
The top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees met Thursday morning to chart a path for reaching agreement on a fiscal year 2022 omnibus government funding bill and said they would meet again soon.
Negotiators in the so-called “Four Corners” say they’re optimistic about reaching an agreement.
“I think we have a good chance of coming together on this,” Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the top-ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters as she headed into the meeting.
One Democratic senator said he had been told that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top-ranking Republican on the Senate panel, already have a tentative deal on the parameters of the legislation and now need to bring their House counterparts on board.
Leahy told The Hill before the meeting that “we’re trying to” get an agreement between Senate and House negotiators wrapped up soon.
“We realize time is running out,” he said.
Leahy, however, declined to comment on any understandings he has with Shelby or on the negotiating dynamics between the Senate and House.
Shelby told reporters after the meeting that Congress’s top-four appropriators had laid out the path for the talks, something they hadn’t done before.
“The four of us had constructive talks of where we go and how we get there and how we start,” he said. “We hadn’t worked that out yet.”
“We’ll continue to talk and meet,” he said, adding that Leahy and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will reconvene the group soon to resume negotiations.
Shelby warned that another stopgap funding measures is “looming” if they fail to hammer out a deal by early next month.
Leahy described the meeting as a “worthwhile discussion” and said he hoped to get a deal done in the next few weeks.
Leahy and Shelby met with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Wednesday to discuss the parameters of the spending package, which is weeks behind schedule.
The 2021 fiscal year ended at the end of September and lawmakers uncharacteristically left Washington for Christmas without passing the annual appropriations bills because Democrats were focused on finishing work on President Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending bill, Build Back Better, which remains stalled in the Senate.
The Senate is scheduled to be in recess next week in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day but DeLauro said the group would meet again soon in order to have a better chance of reaching a deal by Feb. 18.
“That’s my goal,” she said. “We’re going to continue speaking.”
Asked if she feels more hopeful after the meeting, she said “I’m hopeful always.”