Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP file photo

The White House and Congressional Republicans Are Nearing a Budget Deal to Avoid Shutdown

Boehner is eager to get an agreement on spending and the debt ceiling before he leaves office.

House Speak­er John Boehner’s last week will be a busy one.

Boehner and the three oth­er top con­gres­sion­al of­fi­cials—House Demo­crat­ic Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, and Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id—are clos­ing in on a deal that would both raise the coun­try’s bor­row­ing au­thor­ity ahead of a cru­cial dead­line next week and in­crease spend­ing over the next two years, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sion­al aide. 

The deal isn’t fi­nal, but mul­tiple re­ports con­firm the talks are pick­ing up speed ahead of the Nov. 3 dead­line to raise the debt ceil­ing and a Dec. 11 dead­line to keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning. The New York Times re­ports that the deal in­cludes cuts in Medi­care and So­cial Se­cur­ity dis­ab­il­ity be­ne­fits, cit­ing an­onym­ous of­fi­cials. 

“There’s no budget deal that doesn’t in­volve health man­dat­ory cuts,” a source fa­mil­i­ar with the ne­go­ti­ations told Na­tion­al Journ­al last week. “That’s just where the money is.”

A House source said the emer­ging deal would in­clude a “clean” sus­pen­sion of the debt lim­it un­til March 2017 and “would also ad­dress the Medi­care Part B is­sue, pro­tect­ing mil­lions of seni­ors from sig­ni­fic­ant in­creases to their premi­ums and de­duct­ibles.”

Boehner has said he wants to “clean the barn up” be­fore his suc­cessor—most likely Rep. Paul Ry­an—takes over later this week. But it’s un­clear wheth­er the House will have the votes to pass such a deal, even with strong Demo­crat­ic sup­port, giv­en the num­ber of Re­pub­lic­ans who are wary of vot­ing for a debt-ceil­ing in­crease.

The last-minute dis­cus­sions come as top of­fi­cials in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion warn of the dire eco­nom­ic con­sequences of even ap­proach­ing the first-ever U.S. de­fault.   

In his press brief­ing Monday af­ter­noon, White House Press Sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est wouldn’t con­firm that a budget deal could be soon an­nounced, or that the deal would last for two years. Earn­est did say the ne­go­ti­ations had been un­der­way for sev­er­al weeks, and the House source said the emer­ging agree­ment was a product of the dis­cus­sions that began in mid-Septem­ber.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have en­gaged in a “sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber” of the bi­par­tis­an talks on the Hill, Earn­est said: Not only in an ef­fort to provide “tech­nic­al ad­vice,” but also be­cause Pres­id­ent Obama will need to sign off on whatever agree­ment is reached. He wouldn’t go in­to spe­cif­ics about the ne­go­ti­ations’ de­tails.

“We have worked as­sidu­ously to pro­tect the pri­vacy and con­fid­ence of those dis­cus­sion prin­ciples be­cause they’re based on this prin­ciple that noth­ing is agreed to … un­til everything is agreed to,” Earn­est said.

As it stands, not everything is agreed to, so that means “noth­ing is agreed to.”

Earn­est knocked Re­pub­lic­ans for passing budgets in the past “strictly on party lines,” and said the White House has been say­ing all along that Re­pub­lic­ans need to “try to find com­mon ground” with Demo­crats.

The White House hopes that con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans can en­gage in talks with Demo­crats in a man­ner sim­il­ar to the budget ne­go­ti­ations spear­headed by Sens. Patty Mur­ray and Paul Ry­an after the last gov­ern­ment shut­down.

On the debt lim­it, Earn­est said the ad­min­is­tra­tion isn’t will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate, not­ing that debt ceil­ing le­gis­la­tion has his­tor­ic­ally been at­tached—go­ing back as far as Ron­ald Re­agan—to bills the White House knows will pass Con­gress. Earn­est said Con­gress could at­tach it sim­il­arly this time around, or pass it in a stan­dalone man­ner.

“We are on track for fur­ther eco­nom­ic growth—yet with eight days, as of Monday, un­til Treas­ury runs out of bor­row­ing au­thor­ity on Nov. 3, some in Con­gress are en­dan­ger­ing this pro­gress by once again man­u­fac­tur­ing a crisis for our coun­try,” wrote Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew in a USA Today op-ed pub­lished Monday. “By wait­ing to the last minute to act on the debt lim­it, Con­gress could cause a ter­rible ac­ci­dent. This is not an ab­strac­tion; fail­ure to raise the debt lim­it would mean dev­ast­at­ing im­pacts for tax­pay­ers, con­sumers and busi­nesses.”  

“In­creas­ing the debt lim­it does not au­thor­ize fu­ture spend­ing or fund new pro­grams—it merely en­ables us to pay the ob­lig­a­tions that Con­gress has already in­curred,” he ad­ded.