Congressional Leaders, White House Huddle On Budget

Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and top White House aides huddled Wednesday to restart negotiations on a bipartisan budget deal.

After passing a stop-gap measure in December to keep the government funded through Jan. 19, passing a longer-term spending bill is one of Congress’ most pressing tasks in the coming weeks.  

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and White House legislative affairs director Marc Short gathered in Ryan’s office to discuss “their priorities for a bipartisan spending agreement.”

Leaders from both parties have repeatedly expressed their desire to avoid having to pass another short-term spending bill.

While a deal has not been struck, a Democratic leadership aide said the group will continue negotiations in the hopes of coming to an agreement on legislation to “lift the defense and non-defense caps, a DACA and border agreement, a health care package, as well as a disaster aid bill.”

“The American people deserve a government that funds our great military, protects our borders, and leads to a more prosperous future for all,” the White House, Ryan and McConnell said in a joint statement. “It is important that we achieve a two-year agreement that funds our troops and provides for our national security and other critical functions of the Federal government.”

Pelosi told reporters she felt it was a productive meeting, noting Democrats are pushing for a permanent solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to be attached to the final bill.

“We had a positive and productive meeting and all parties have agreed to continue discussing a path forward to quickly resolve all of the issues ahead of us,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

Finding a DACA fix has been a priority for both parties, with Congress facing a March 5 deadline to pass legislation before protections for nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors expire. Top Republicans have advocated for DACA to be passed in a stand-alone bill, with President Donald Trump pushing for the inclusion of federal funding to build a wall along the southern border.

“It also remains important that members of Congress do not hold funding for our troops hostage for immigration policy,” Ryan, McConnell and the White House said in their statement. “We’ve been clear about these budget priorities from the beginning and hope that further discussions will lead to an agreement soon.”

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