Senate

McConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he wants a deal on top-line figures for a package of government funding bills this week, as Congress barrels toward a shutdown deadline.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, predicted that lawmakers would get a good sense this week about whether Congress will be able to reach a deal on a fiscal 2021 spending package or if they’ll need to pass a stopgap continuing resolution (CR), which would continue fiscal 202 spending levels.

“What needs to happen now is quite simple: Our colleagues on the committee and their counterparts in the House need to continue their bicameral discussions and settle on top-line dollar amounts for each bill. I hope they’ll be able to reach this broad agreement by the end of this very week,” McConnell said.

Congress has until Dec. 11 to fund the government in order to avoid a shutdown heading into the holidays.

There are signs that talks are taking place behind the scenes.

An aide for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) revealed Tuesday that the Speaker and McConnell held discussions last week about “housekeeping,” including “a brief conversation about their shared commitment to getting an omnibus agreement completed.”

Pelosi also spoke last week with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The Senate panel released text for all 12 of its annual spending bills last week.

Shelby said that he had also spoken to McConnell and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, as recently as Tuesday.

“We’re working,” Shelby said, but noted of the Dec. 11 deadline: “Sometimes that slips too. I hope it won’t.”

Asked about the timeline for a deal this week on the top-line spending figures for all 12 fiscal 2021 bills, Shelby said that was the “goal.”

“We’re hoping. We’re doing extensive talks on the staff level and so forth. So we know what our goal is. We’re trying to get there,” Shelby said. “We believe there’s a little bit of momentum here now and let’s see what we can do.”

He added that believes that they have “some basic agreements in principle” on some of the numbers, but they have not yet been signed off on. Congress is supposed to pass all 12 fiscal 2021 spending bill by Oct. 1 but routinely uses a CR to buy itself more time, much like it did this year.

Two questions looming over the government funding talks is whether lawmakers will try to airdrop in coronavirus relief funding. Pelosi and McConnell remain far apart on a COVID-19 relief package, with no discussions happening between the two on a year-end agreement.

But GOP senators for months have floated tying it to government funding and indicated this week that it might be the best shot at getting more coronavirus relief across the finish line.

“As you know, I’ve been skeptical that we will be able to get to that. I think, frankly, our best chance to get some COVID relief might be to get a regular funding bill and put the most critical pieces of COVID relief on that, but we’ll see,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

It’s also unclear whether President Trump would sign a full-year spending deal on his way out of office. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow previously indicated that he thought Congress and the administration would be able to get a deal on a CR.

Asked if the White House or the president have indicated support an omnibus deal, Shelby said they had not.

“No,” he said. “We’re trying to work with each other now and we understand that the president has a powerful voice, ultimately, in all of this. But let’s see what we can accomplish first.”

Tags CR Donald Trump funding bills Government shutdown Larry Kudlow Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby Roy Blunt

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