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December 13, 2019 2:00 PM, EST

Democrats, GOP Reach Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

CapitolJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

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Lawmakers from the House and Senate have reached a bipartisan deal to fund the government before the Dec. 20 spending deadline, according to Nita Lowey, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

The $1.3 trillion deal in principle follows weeks of negotiations between the Democratic-led House, the Republican-led Senate and the Trump administration. Lowey was accompanied by her Republican and Senate counterparts when she told reporters on Dec. 12 that they have an agreement on all 12 spending bills needed to fully fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The White House has yet to sign off on the agreement.

Congress will have eight days to pass the measures through both chambers and get them to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Nita Lowey

Lowey

Congress began 2019 with a 35-day government shutdown after Trump scuttled a deal late last year when Republicans controlled the House and Senate. Trump asked House Republicans to oppose last year’s deal because it didn’t include funds to build a wall on the southern border.

This year’s spending deal would provide the same $1.375 billion for the border wall that Congress offered for fiscal year 2019 to end the 35-day shutdown, according to two people familiar with the deal. In a victory for Republicans, Trump will retain the ability to transfer funds from other accounts, which is the subject of a court dispute and a nationwide injunction.

Democrats won’t replenish the $3.6 billion that Trump raided from military construction accounts earlier this year to pay for the border wall. That will make it harder for Trump to redirect military construction funds in the future, since there will be fewer funds to draw from.

‘Constructive’ Discussion

There were a few other contentious issues that Lowey discussed Dec. 12 with top appropriators GOP Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and GOP Texas Rep. Kay Granger. Besides border wall funding, Republicans and Democrats sought a compromise on Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention capacity and the Trump administration’s Title X policy blocking federal funds to groups that refer patients for abortions.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

Mnuchin

One of the people familiar with the deal said that ICE and Customs and Border Protection won’t get budget increases, which was a priority for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Shelby and Lowey earlier Dec. 12 and called the discussion “constructive.” Mnuchin also briefed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on negotiations earlier in the day.

Lawmakers didn’t ask the White House for an explicit sign-off on the final deal.

“They’ve been involved,” Shelby told reporters. “But we have to make the decisions.”

‘Life Isn’t That Way’

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus explained their priorities to Pelosi and Lowey on Dec. 11, urging them to fight against border wall funding, for restrictions to the president’s power to transfer funds and for limits to ICE detention levels, Reps. Joaquin Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said after the meeting.

Lowey warned that some members won’t be happy with a compromise on the most controversial issues.

“There are some people in the Congress who only want 100% of what they want,” Lowey said. “But life isn’t that way. You sometimes have to respect others and make some compromises, but I think this bill represents our values well.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he hasn’t decided how to package the 12 bills for a floor vote, but he wants to vote by Dec. 17. Trump said in previous years that he won’t sign a 12-bill spending package, known as an omnibus, so lawmakers will likely vote on two packages. The bills are likely to be introduced Dec. 16, said one of the people.

Lawmakers are still finalizing the details, Shelby said, and staff members “are working out a few particulars.”

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