WASHINGTON — A bipartisan agreement over a $1.3 trillion spending package is nearly complete, sources said Wednesday. The deal would keep the government funded through September and prevent a government shutdown — if it's passed and signed into law by the Friday night deadline.
Congressional leaders met Wednesday morning to discuss a few remaining details ahead of the bill's expected release later in the day, with House lawmakers still aiming for a Thursday floor vote ahead of the Friday deadline.
"We had a very very good meeting and we hope that everything will be done," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., exiting the meeting, and predicted the bill would be ready in a few hours. House Speaker Paul Ryan said lawmakers were making progress. "It was a good meeting actually — very good," he said.
Congress has until Friday at midnight to pass the spending package ahead of a two-week recess for Easter and Passover.
The current compromise provides only a fraction of the funding Trump had sought for a border wall, providing instead for roughly $1.6 billion for physical barriers and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a GOP source familiar with negotiations. A Democratic source said that the amount only includes $641 million for 33 miles of new border fencing, not a concrete wall.
In recent days, the White House had requested $25 billion for President Trump's proposed border wall over three years in exchange for a 2.5 year extension for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), the program President Obama created in 2012 to defer deportations for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Democrats rejected that offer.
According to the GOP source, this deal does not address DACA, which the Trump administration had announced last September that it would end, tasking Congress with coming up with a legislative solution.
Sources said the measure would provide a backdoor for construction to begin on the Gateway Project, a new rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, by making some of the federal funding supporters wanted available through money appropriated for Amtrak and other accounts. As much as $541 million in funding will be available for the project this year and an extra $2.9 billion in grants would be made available for it, the Democratic source said.
Trump had quietly threatened a veto of the bill if it contained funding for Gateway, but Republican lawmakers who represent districts in the region were lobbying him to support the effort. The Democratic source said that the Department of Transportation will have "a limited ability to withhold the funding" despite Trump's opposition to the project, and that the bill includes language that requires the transportation secretary to sign off on grants in compliance with requirements in current law. At the same time, this portion of the bill can be viewed as a compromise because it doesn't make as much available for the project as originally requested.
The deal would not cut funding for Planned Parenthood and there are no provisions that defund so-called "sanctuary cities," said the Democratic source, who added that the bill also provides for more than $300 million above the Trump administration's request for the FBI's efforts to fight Russian cyberattacks in 2018. The bill also offers a $2.8 billion increase to help battle the opioid epidemic.
A major funding increase for school safety was expected in the spending bill. Two Republican sources familiar with ongoing negotiations said Tuesday that the bill would provide more than $2 billion for school safety, which is far more than the $50 million the House passed in the STOP School Violence Act and more than the $100 million in the Senate version of a similar bill. Democrats have argued that the $2 billion figure is Republican spin because that total includes money for programs that already exist. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's office said that the actual amount may be as much as $250 million on new programs to ensure school safety. The bill does not provide money for arming teachers.
Republicans won't be able to pass the measure alone — at least in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and advance the bill, they will need Democratic votes. Republicans currently have 51 senators, while Democrats have 49.