Budget Talks Are Progressing But Potential Roadblocks Still Remain

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Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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The White House is reportedly close to reaching a budget deal with Congress, but the administration is still wary of potential roadblocks that could stop an agreement in its tracks.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have both expressed some optimism about a potential deal, with Mnuchin insisting that negotiators agree on “core elements,” such as a debt limit increase and overall spending levels.

“The good news is we’ve reached an agreement between the administration, the House and the Senate on top line numbers for both year one and year two,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday morning. “We’re now discussing offsets as well as certain structural issues, and we’ve agreed as a part of that deal there would be a long-term two-year debt ceiling increase.”

Pelosi was a bit more cautious, stating that “nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” but adding that negotiators “have a path” toward a deal.

A two-year deal with a debt-ceiling increase would allow Trump to avoid another shutdown in a tense election year, but could anger budget hawks who want all spending increases to be offset with an equal amount of cuts. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are urging the president to sign whatever “reasonable” deal lands on his desk.

“I’ve talked to him about it. He’s supportive,” Georgia Sen. David Perdue said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed that he would tell the president, “If you get a reasonable deal, take it,” while Sen. Kevin Cramer said that if Trump declined to take the deal, “I’ll call him and suggest he reconsider.”

However, a senior administration official told the Daily Caller that there are still several items that could derail the negotiating process.

First, the administration is seeking $150 billion over ten years in cuts to offset spending increases, which may be higher than Democrats are comfortable with.

Second, Trump will not sign a bill that contains significant “poison pills,” such as nullifying the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion. Democrats attempted a similar maneuver in June during negotiations over a supplemental border bill, adding riders that would curb border agents’ flexibility when detaining migrants. (RELATED: ‘Pointless Obstruction’ — GOP Urges House Democrats To Take Up Senate’s Border Bill)

“We expect the president to veto any bill that contains poison pills that undermines his achievements or ties his hands in securing our borders,” the administration official explained.

A senior GOP aide pointed out that the only leverage Republicans have in negotiations with Pelosi is the desire to avoid another government shutdown, meaning a deal will likely do little to satisfy any of the parties involved.

“The Freedom Caucus will hate it, House Republicans won’t like it, Senate Republicans will swallow it, and the White House will try to salvage as much as they can, but it’s unrealistic to expect much when your only leverage is another shutdown which no one wants,” the aide told the Caller. “The reality is you’re in a situation where the outcome becomes almost inevitably bad.”

Pelosi hesitated Thursday when asked if a deal would be reached today, suggesting that both sides recognize there is still a lot of work to be done.

This article has been updated with additional reporting.