Senate Leaders Announce 2-Year Budget Deal

WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate leadership on Wednesday announced a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that lifts mandatory caps on government spending that could make it easier for Congress to pass future funding packages and avoid future shutdowns.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the deal on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, one day after expressing optimism that an agreement was imminent.

They said the deal includes more money for defense, as well as for veterans’ health care, efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and disaster relief initiatives. The agreement includes an additional four years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and increases funding for community health centers.

The four-year extension for CHIP builds on a six-year extension included in the short-term funding bill that ended last month’s shutdown, meaning the program would be funded for a total of 10 years.

“This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday while announcing the agreement. “No one would suggest it is perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people.”

The Senate is expected to soon take up a short-term funding agreement the House passed Tuesday night and pass it alongside the budget agreement. Lawmakers would then be able to work on a more long-term funding bill, the passage of which the budget deal should ease.

The budget caps the Schumer-McConnell agreement dispatches that went into place in 2011 as part of a compromise between the new Republican House majority and the Obama administration. House Republicans at the time did not want to raise the debt ceiling, relenting only in exchange for limits on future government spending.

Congress has funded the government through a series of short-term measures since September as the two parties have been unable to reach a lengthier agreement. The latest funding bill is set to expire on Feb. 8.

It is not yet clear what the budget deal’s prospects are in Congress. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced on Wednesday she would not support the deal without assurances from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that the House will consider an immigration bill.

President Donald Trump last year ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided protections for deportation for people in the country illegally who were brought to the United States as children. The program officially expires on March 5, giving Congress as short window to pass an immigration bill.

As part of the agreement that ended last month’s short-lived shutdown, McConnell said the Senate would vote on competing immigration proposals, but Ryan has yet to make a similar promise.

“This morning, we took a measure of our caucus because the packages does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in the House,” Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday. “Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

With Republicans holding a majority in the House, Pelosi’s opposition is only a threat to the budget bill if enough conservatives in the House join her.  A spokesperson for Rep. Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who leads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, did not immediately return a request for comment on the agreement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she and many fellow Democrats will oppose the bipartisan budget deal unless Republicans allow the chamber to vote on legislation protecting immigrants.

The California Democrat’s remarks potentially jeopardize the prospects that Congress will pass legislation this week preventing a government shutdown starting after midnight Thursday.

Pelosi, who has been holding the House floor for seven hours and counting Wednesday, said because House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to promise an immigration vote, the emerging budget pact “does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus.”

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