Sunset sky over the US Capitol building dome in Washington DC. trekandshoot/ThinkstockPhotos

Congressional leaders near spending deal

The plan would include $1.6 billion for border security and omit language steering money to the Gateway project for a Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey.

by Erik Wasson

Leaders in Congress from both parties said they’re on the cusp of settling on a $1.3 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown this weekend after key compromises were reached during overnight talks. 

The plan would include $1.6 billion for border security, including money for fencing and levees at the U.S.-Mexico border but not the solid wall sought by President Donald Trump, a GOP lawmaker and some of the aides said. It would omit language steering money to the Gateway project for a Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey, although the project could access about half the funds supporters are seeking through other accounts, one congressional aide said. Trump has insisted on removing money for Gateway from the plan. 

“We feel like we’re in a very good place” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said after meeting Wednesday morning with the other leaders in Congress from both parties. 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and his House counterpart, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, echoed the sentiment.

“I think we will present to our members something they can comfortably support,” Pelosi said. 

The full details of catch-all bill are expected to be unveiled later Wednesday. The House plans to vote on it Thursday under a waiver of rules that normally would require a vote to be delayed another day, a GOP lawmaker said. The spending measure likely will be the last major piece of legislative business before November congressional elections. 

Current government funding runs out at the end of the day Friday. Congress may still have to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating until the overall spending measure gets final approval. 

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are expecting to rely on Democrats to help pass the bill over the objections of some Republican conservatives who object to higher spending levels that are at the center of the deal.

Military Spending Boost

The measure would increase spending on the military by $80 billion and on domestic programs by $63 billion over previous budget limits set out in the bipartisan budget agreement that ended a February shutdown. In addition to the $1.2 trillion in overall funding that was agreed to in February, the military would receive $71 billion in war funds not subject to budget caps.

One aide said the legislation won’t strip funding from Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and other women’s health services, or from cities that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation. It would bolster Democratic priorities including TIGER infrastructure grants, which would be tripled to $1.5 billion, while sparing the Environmental Protections Agency from the 30% cut that Trump requested, that aide said.

The bill would contain funding to combat Russian interference in this year’s elections, the aide said. 

A separate Republican aide said the measure would provide more than $600 million to build a new rural broadband network.

Leaders still needed to sort out whether the bill will amend the new tax-overhaul law in a way sought by grain companies, according to one aide. The tax law contains a provision that promoted sales to farm co-ops at the expense of grain companies. Democrats have sought to reach an agreement over revising the provision in exchange for a boost in low-income housing tax credits. 

While lawmakers worked on the spending measure, prospects for other major legislation -- including a farm bill, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank banking law and an infrastructure package -- have worsened over the last week. An overhaul of aviation regulation planned for the summer is unlikely to produce major changes.

--With assistance from Laura Litvan and Billy House.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Wasson in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at [email protected]

Justin Blum 

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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