Senate leaders strike budget deal ahead of government shutdown deadline

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders have reached a broad long-term spending deal just one day before the latest in a string of government shutdown deadlines.

The measure, negotiated between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, increases domestic spending by $63 billion and military spending by $80 billion for 2018 with larger increases in 2019. The spending levels completely eliminate the mandatory spending caps, otherwise known as sequestration, that have been imposed on both military and domestic spending since 2011.

"The compromise we’ve reached will ensure for the first time in years our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep them safe," McConnell said announcing the deal Wednesday

"This budget deal will be the best thing we’ve done to our economy and our middle class in a long time," Schumer said in a speech following McConnell.

In addition to determining spending levels, it would provide additional funds for disaster relief for wildfires and hurricanes. It would also extend the low-income children's health program for ten years instead of six, which was passed just last month. It would provide $6 billion for opioid treatment and $20 billion for infrastructure.

 

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While Senate leaders praised the compromise legislation, Pelosi is demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan commit to addressing the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. She put out a pre-emptive statement Wednesday morning and took to the House floor for three hours and counting, saying that she wouldn’t support a deal that does not include a solution for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers.

“The budget caps agreement includes many Democratic priorities,” Pelosi said in a statement. “This morning, we took a measure of our Caucus because the package does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in the House. Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

Even with a broader spending deal, Congress would still have to pass a short-term spending bill by midnight on Thursday because the new agreement doesn’t actually fund the government but creates the top-line spending levels that enables them to write the appropriations bills. The proposal gives them until March 22 to do that.

The support of Democrats in the House is necessary as conservative Republicans are expected to oppose it because of an increase in domestic spending. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he’s unlikely to support any spending deal that increases domestic spending.

“There’s negotiations going on even at this hour right now on the spending, and I’m afraid that the deal that they’re going to announce, Chuck Schumer will be very happy about that, the Freedom Caucus members won’t,” Meadows said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate Republican in the Senate, said she's optimistic.

“I’m confident there’s not going to be a government shutdown, and there shouldn’t be,” Collins said. “We’re already nearly six months into the fiscal year, and it’s irresponsible of us to not finish this work.”

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