Trump to meet with Democrats, GOP for budget talks

Erik Wasson
Bloomberg News

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said they’ve agreed to meet on Thursday with President Donald Trump and Republican Congressional leaders to discuss a year-end spending deal as a possible government shutdown looms as early as Saturday.

The Oval Office sit-down will come after Pelosi of California and Schumer of New York pulled out of a planned meeting on Nov. 28 after Trump tweeted, “I don’t see a deal!” Trump said that because Democrats skipped that meeting, they would be blamed for any government shutdown. Pelosi said on Twitter that Trump “now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated.”

Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Monday, “We hope the president will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can’t be reached beforehand.”

The group is set to discuss a potential deal to raise defense and non-defense budget caps. Also on the agenda would be other year-end matters, including protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, hurricane disaster aid and an extension of the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will also attend the negotiating session and had urged their Democratic counterparts to reschedule it.

A partial government shutdown looms after Friday unless Congress passes a two-week spending bill that House Republicans introduced over the weekend.

Democrats haven’t said how they will vote, but a Democratic aide said their vote would depend on wider budget talks making progress. Democrats have leverage because a bill needs 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

Because a two-year budget deal is expiring, the defense spending cap is due to drop in 2018to $549 billion from this year’s $551 billion, while non-defense spending is to fallt o $516 billion from $519 billion. Some Republicans want a large boost in the defense cap, and Democrats are demanding an equal increase in non-defense spending.

Republicans are likely to seek cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicaid and other “mandatory” spending like federal pensions.

Congressional leaders hope to use the two weeks afforded by the stopgap spending bill to work out an overall deal and attach it to another short-term spending bill that would be needed by Dec. 22 to continue federal spending into January.

McConnell said Sunday that a CHIP extension and disaster aid would be addressed in a spending bill before Dec. 22, but not immigration. He said Democrats are in an “untenable position” if they push the immigration issue to the point of a government shutdown.

Once overall spending caps are agreed upon, the congressional appropriations committees will spend weeks working out hundreds of line items and policy provisions for a final $1 trillion spending bill to be brought to a vote in January.