Tue, 20 Aug 2019

Budget Negotiators Close on Debt, Agency Spending Deal

Voice of America
23 Jul 2019, 04:05 GMT+10

The Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on the cusp of the critical debt and budget deal, one that would amount to a hard-fought, against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid politically dangerous tumult over must-do fiscal deadlines.

Aides on both sides of the talks say the tentative deal would restore the government's ability to borrow into the next administration and build upon recent large budget gains for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies. The deal would mostly eliminate the risk of a repeat government shutdown this fall.

The agreement on an outline for $1.3 trillion in agency spending would represent a win for lawmakers eager to return Washington to a more predictable path amid political tumult and polarization, defense hawks determined to cement big military increases and Democrats who oppose spending cuts.

The aides who spoke about the emerging deal did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before a deal was final. A person close to the talks said final obstacles are down to technical issues.

It comes under the radar of the political tumult consuming Washington and the already blazing 2020 presidential campaign.

A push by the White House and House GOP forces for offsetting spending cuts was largely jettisoned, though Pelosi, D-Calif., has given assurances about not seeking to use the follow-up spending bills as vehicles for aggressively liberal policy initiatives. Fights over President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall, other immigration-related issues and spending priorities will be rejoined on follow-up spending bills.

Prospects for an agreement, a months-long priority of top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, became far brighter when Pelosi returned to Washington this month and aggressively pursued the pact with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was anointed lead negotiator instead of more conservative options like acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or hard-line budget director Russell Vought.

Mnuchin was eager to avert a crisis over the government's debt limit. There's some risk of a first-ever U.S. default in September, an unthinkable risk to the markets, which added urgency to the negotiations. McConnell and Pelosi, whose alliance on appropriations is undefeated so far in the Trump era, are sure to deliver the votes.

If sealed Monday, the measure would first advance through the House and win the Senate's endorsement next week as Congress takes its annual August time out.

Trump has yet to weigh in, and his options seem limited, especially if the deal receives strong votes in both the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-held Senate. Any veto threat or other blow-up that craters the deal would create a crisis that would be rejoined in September that would only generate more losers.

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