Lawmakers close to agreement on $1.3 trillion spending bill to avoid shutdown

Lawmakers are closing in on an agreement for $1.3 trillion spending bill.

March 21, 2018, 1:55 PM

Working against a midnight Friday deadline, Democrats and Republicans are coming together on a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill to avert a government shutdown, although they’re punting on some of the more contentious issues, including a solution for the fate of some 700,000 DACA recipients – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

As snow blanketed Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Nancy Pelosi emerged from a meeting of the so-called “Big Four” congressional leaders in the House Speaker Paul Ryan's office, signaling they've reached a deal in principle with Republicans, although they’re still finalizing legislative text.

“We had a very, very good meeting and we hope that everything will be done,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “There's some language that has to be gone over in a few areas but we hope to be ready to go in a few hours” while Pelosi said negotiators have “made good progress.”

Ryan likewise told reporters the leaders had a "good meeting" while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said appropriators are heading "toward a conclusion" and "is currently being finalized."

A Ryan spokesman said President Donald Trump had signed on as well.

“The Speaker met with the president this afternoon to discuss the emerging funding bill. They had a good conversation about the wins delivered for the president, and he is supportive of the bill,” Doug Andres, a spokesman for Speaker Ryan, said. Another spokesman for McConnell confirmed he participated by phone.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement detailing why Trump was on board despite reports it doesn't fulfill a request to fund his proposed border wall.

“The President had a discussion with Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, where they talked about their shared priorities secured in the omnibus spending bill. The President and the leaders discussed their support for the bill, which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall and other key domestic priorities, like combatting the opioid crisis and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure," the statement said.

A Democratic aide familiar with the details of the agreement said the bill provides $641 million for approximately 33 miles of new border fencing – though only levees and fences, not a concrete wall. The bill also includes $1.296 billion for technological border security improvements.

Pelosi signaled she expects rank-and-file House Democrats to vote for the compromise.

“I want to commend our staff, the staff of both House, Senate, and the Republicans as well for dealing expeditiously with some of the differences, resolving some, putting some aside for another day,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “And I think we're going to present something to our members that they can comfortably support.”

The deal funds government programs for the remaining fiscal year 2018, including $629 billion in defense spending and non-defense discretionary funding at a pace of $579 billion. An additional $92 billion is set aside for emergencies.

Current government funding lapses on Friday night at 11:59:59 p.m.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are tight-lipped about the details, although aides say the package also includes the "Fix NICS" gun purchase legislation to give states and federal agencies incentives to enter data into the National Instant Background Check System.

But a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients must wait for another day, sources say, leaving the futures of hundreds of thousands of people hanging in the balance.

"Republicans refused to address DACA in a manner that Democrats could support," a Democratic aide noted.

Nevertheless, the Democratic leaders expect broad bipartisan support in a vote later this week.

“We're feeling very good about this. We've accomplished many, many, many of our goals,” Schumer added. “When it's unveiled, you will see them. We're not getting into any more details.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise plans to whip during the first series of votes following the text being available, according to a senior GOP leadership aide. As of 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, the text still had not been posted online for members to review.

The deal requires bipartisan buy-in from all four corners of Congress, though congressional leaders did not craft the bill to win over support from the most conservative and progressive wings of their respective parties. Freedom Caucus conservatives, for example, have expressed a principled concern over the $1.3 trillion price tag, while some Democrats are expected to attribute their opposition to a lack of a solution on DACA.

But the bill should not require their support for passage.

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