Administration floats one-year stopgap spending measure to keep agencies funded at fiscal 2019 levels.
Congressional leadership and the Trump administration on Wednesday moved no closer to a deal to lift spending caps set to take effect in October, though the White House appears to be offering a one-year stopgap spending measure in hopes of avoiding another government shutdown.
Top lawmakers in both the House and Senate huddled with Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin, as well as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, in hopes of reaching a compromise to offset automatic budget cuts that would slash defense and non-defense spending by a total of $125 billion in fiscal 2020. The officials also discussed a path forward for lifting the nation’s borrowing limit, as Treasury is set to hit its debt ceiling later this year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blamed the White House for a lack of progress they could otherwise make if negotiating only with congressional Republicans.
“While we did not reach an agreement, today’s conversation advanced our bipartisan discussions,” they said in a joint statement. “If the House and Senate could work their will without interference from the president, we could come to a good agreement much more quickly.”
The White House seemed even more pessimistic about the state of discussions. Democrats have been steadfast in ensuring the caps set on spending next fiscal year by the 2011 Budget Control Act are raised equally for both non-defense and defense agencies. Mulvaney said after the meeting that the Democrats' request for non-defense spending has increased since previous talks.
“So you tell me if things are moving in the right direction,” Mulvaney told National Journal. “The last time I checked, that’s not how you compromise.”
Mnuchin told reporters he offered Democrats a one-year continuing resolution to keep agencies funded at fiscal 2019 levels, as well as a one-year increase to the debt ceiling.
“We are taking sequester off the table,” Mnuchin said. “The president has every intention of keeping the government open.”
Schumer rejected the offer, calling it “bad policy” and saying Congress should “do better.” He did not rule out the possibility altogether, however, saying it was “a fallback” option.
“Democrats are committed to working across the aisle to avoid the devastating cuts of the sequester and the limitations of a continuing resolution,” he and Pelosi said in their joint statement.
Democrats are moving forward with spending bills despite the lack of agreement on top-line funding levels, with the House on Wednesday passing its first “minibus” package and taking up a second for consideration.
A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would institute an automatic continuing resolution if Congress ever fails to enact appropriations, while forcing lawmakers to stay in the capital until funding is worked out.