Senate Leadership Close to Long-Term Budget Deal

WASHINGTON (CN) – With the House of Representatives prepared to take up a short-term government funding package as early as Tuesday, Senate leadership said they are close to reaching a long-term bipartisan budget agreement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., met on Tuesday to discuss an agreement that would lift mandatory caps on government spending for both defense and non-defense programs and make it easier for Congress to fund the government without the short-term funding deals that have become commonplace in Washington.

“I think we’re on the way to getting an agreement and on the way to getting an agreement very soon,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Schumer said the deal is close, but acknowledged issues remain for congressional negotiators to iron out. Congress has until Thursday to pass a deal to fund the government or face another government shutdown.

“We are really making good progress, I’m very hopefully, very hopeful, nothing’s done yet, there are some outstanding issues … but I am very hopeful that we can come to an agreement, an agreement very soon,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he has gone over the general shape of the agreement with Senate Democrats and that he believes they will support it.

The short-term agreement the House is considering would fund the government through March 23 and provide money for defense for the rest of the fiscal year. Congressional Democrats have consistently opposed treating non-defense and defense programs differently in government funding bills, dimming such a package’s prospects in the Senate, where Republicans will need Democrats’ support to pass a bill.

Schumer said he has been working to earn support for the budget deal among House Democrats, who have been wary of supporting a long-term budget agreement without  an immigration bill granting protections to people in the country illegally who were brought to the United States as children.

McConnell has promised the Senate will debate competing immigration proposals next week if Congress can avert a shutdown, but neither he nor Schumer would embrace a specific policy proposal on Tuesday. McConnell said the bill that will come out of the Senate is whichever one can earn 60 votes.

“I’m not trying to tilt the playing field in any particular direction,” McConnell told reporters.

But even with congressional optimism about averting a shutdown this week running high, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for a shutdown if lawmakers do not sign off on increased funding for boarder security.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t see this stuff taken care of,” Trump said at a White House event Tuesday.

Last year, Trump ended the program known as DACA that provided people in the country illegally who were brought to the United States as children temporary protections from deportation. The program officially ends in March, putting pressure on Congress to reach an agreement within the next month.

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