McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAugust recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up McConnell brushes off question about special treatment from Chao MORE (R-Ky.) invited Senate Republican colleagues to a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinAugust recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up Senate GOP, White House reschedule government funding meeting MORE and White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyAugust recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up Senate GOP, White House reschedule government funding meeting MORE Wednesday in a renewed attempt to sell the White House on a two-year spending deal.

McConnell brought in Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyAugust recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up Senate GOP, White House reschedule government funding meeting MORE (R-Ala.) and several appropriations cardinals, the chairmen of powerful subcommittees, to underscore his argument that a two-year deal on spending caps is essential to avoiding big cuts to defense spending at year’s end.  

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Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell: Senate will hold election security briefing McConnell: Senate will hold election security briefing Proposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America MORE (R-Mo.), chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiAugust recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up Overnight Energy: Trump appoints Social Security watchdog to also oversee Interior | Critics question EPA guidance on pipelines | Battle over science roils EPA MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Interior subcommittee, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamActing DHS chief testifies about situation at border Acting DHS chief testifies about situation at border Senate GOP to vote on Trump’s .5 billion border request next week MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), chairwoman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee, John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Trump’s pursuit of infrastructure deal hits GOP roadblock Democrats, making a difference is better than making a point MORE (R-Ark.), chairman of the Military Construction subcommittee, and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick’s lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Officials, automakers aim to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US: report MORE (R-N.D.), chairman of the Agriculture subcommittee, also attended the meeting.

A Senate Republican lawmaker with knowledge of the agenda said the purpose of the meeting was to sell the White House on accepting a two-year spending caps deal with Democrats.

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The source said that Shelby and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Senators plan 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sale | Trump defends transgender military plan | Trump, lawmakers prep to mark D-Day anniversary Senators plot 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sales Senators plot 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sales MORE (Vt.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, have sketched out a possible rough deal.

Shelby told reporters after the meeting that Mnuchin and Mulvaney will bring a proposal back to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump judicial nominee withdraws amid Republican opposition: report Trump judicial nominee withdraws amid Republican opposition: report Cummings offers to delay contempt vote for Wednesday deadline on subpoenaed census docs MORE to review. He also said Senate Republicans will pass along a new Republican offer to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Major doctors group votes to oppose single-payer | Panel recommends wider use of HIV prevention pill | New lawsuit over Trump ‘conscience protection’ rule Overnight Health Care: Major doctors group votes to oppose single-payer | Panel recommends wider use of HIV prevention pill | New lawsuit over Trump ‘conscience protection’ rule On The Money: Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight | House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill | GOP senators, White House delay meeting on spending | Trump hits Fed over high interest rates MORE (D-Calif.).

“We will be meeting again,” Shelby said. “We discussed things in pretty good detail.”

“Did we crystalize it? No. We didn’t think we’d crystalize it today, but we’re making some progress. But we have some unanswered questions that need to be answered,” he added.

“We’re going to have to be looking at spending caps or sequestration. Sequestration would be devastating to national security in a troubled world we live in,” Shelby said, summarizing the argument that GOP senators are making to the White House.

If Trump and Senate and House leaders fail to reach a deal to raise the spending caps, the automatic cuts known as sequestration set up by the 2011 Budget Control Act will take effect in January.

Asked whether Mnuchin and Mulvaney appeared moved by the prospect of steep cuts to defense programs, Shelby said, “I think so.”

Mnuchin told reporters after the meeting that the White House will agree to link a spending caps deal with legislation to raise the federal debt limit past the 2020 election, a victory for Senate leaders who want to take care of the nation’s most pressing fiscal business with one deal.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBlue Dogs look to move forward on infrastructure project Democratic strategist says Republicans are turning immigration debate into ‘political football’ Trump touts Mexico deal on migrants: Will be ‘very successful’ MORE (N.Y.) said White House officials agreed to link the spending deal to raising the debt limit at a meeting last month, but Mnuchin confirmed it Wednesday.

“Our preference is if we reach a caps deal, the debt ceiling has to be included,” he said.

Mnuchin also said he will brief Trump on the results of the meeting.

“We wouldn’t reach any agreement without the president being fully on board. He’s fully briefed on all our conversations,” he said.

If McConnell and Shelby can’t clinch a deal on new spending caps, the Senate will have to come up with its own top-line numbers to move forward with spending bills, a strategy the Democratic-controlled House has already adopted.

Shelby said he’d prefer to reach a deal with the White House instead of move spending bills through the Senate with the prospect that Trump may veto them later this year.

“We’ve been discussing whether to move forward, deem something, assume something — but we’d rather do it with certainty,” he said.

One Republican senator expressed optimism that McConnell will be able to convince Mulvaney, a former member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, to accept a two-year spending deal, even though it increases the deficit.

“We actually feel pretty good about it,” said the lawmaker. “There are some folks in the White House that in a vacuum wouldn’t mind if the wheels fell off [a budget deal.] We’d spend less money.”

But the lawmaker said that would send a bad signal to allies around the world as it would likely result in a severe defense spending cut.

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