The Insider

Senate leaders optimistic about budget deal as another shutdown deadline approaches

By Tony Bertuca  
February 6, 2018 at 3:42 PM

Senate leaders from both parties said today they are within reach of a bipartisan budget agreement that would avert a government shutdown Thursday and provide increases for defense and non-defense spending.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters a recent meeting with Democratic counterpart Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) went well.

"I think we're on the way to getting an agreement and on the way to getting an agreement very soon," McConnell said during a weekly press briefing.

Schumer, during his weekly press briefing, was similarly optimistic, but said a few outstanding disagreements remain.

"We are really making good progress," he said. "I'm very hopeful that we can come to an agreement very soon."

Questions remain as to whether Senate Democrats will continue to insist that any deal provide "parity" between increases in defense and non-defense spending above the caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

"We Democrats have always stood for parity, and we are making very, very good progress in achieving parity," Schumer said.

Though the Senate debate over immigration policy was blamed for last month's three-day government shutdown, Schumer and McConnell say it is not part of current spending negotiations and will be postponed until week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), however, has been vocal about Democrats' opposition to spending deals that lack parity and do not provide a path to citizenship for individuals covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Schumer said he and Pelosi continue to work closely on ensuring Democrats' top priorities will be reflected in any spending agreement, even if DACA is not included.

"I think we're working from the same page," he said. "The things that we've asked for in terms of domestic priorities are very important to House members as well as Senate members."

Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to vote today on a stopgap continuing resolution that would provide full funding for defense, but punt funding for the rest of the government to March 23. The measure is likely to fail in the Senate, where Democrats have the votes to block it.

Schumer said opposition to the House CR legislation is based on Democrats' belief that domestic priorities should be addressed along with defense.

"We support an increase in funding for our military and an increase in funding for middle class programs," he said. "The two don't conflict with each other. The sequester caps have arbitrarily imposed austerity on both sides of the ledger -- defense and non-defense."

It remains unclear how the House would vote on any deal the Senate might reach this week, but House Democrats, scheduled to leave Washington tomorrow to attend a retreat in Cambridge, MD, would likely have to return to consider the legislation before the shutdown deadline Thursday at midnight.