By Ed O’Keefe,
President Trump and top congressional leaders are set to meet Thursday to discuss enacting a year-end spending agreement in hopes of averting a government shutdown.
With a spending deadline set for Dec. 8, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that they accepted Trump’s invitation to meet at the White House with top Republican leaders the night before government funding dries up.
The meeting date puts significant pressure on GOP leaders to shore up support in their ranks ahead of a vote on a plan to keep the government operating for two more weeks as talks continue.
“We’re glad the White House has reached out and asked for a second meeting. We hope the President will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can’t be reached beforehand,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement.
Over the weekend, Republican leaders introduced a two-week stopgap spending plan that would keep the government open through Dec. 22, but it is unclear whether there’s enough support among House Republicans to pass it on a party-line vote. Democrats are pressuring Republicans to resolve the legal status of “dreamers,” or the young children of undocumented immigrants, after Trump announced plans in September to end an Obama-era program that grants many of them temporary legal status. Coming up with a new plan is a big sticking point for Democrats in spending talks.
The White House on Sunday asked Democrats for a meeting that will include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — a face-to-face encounter that was supposed to happen last week but was abruptly canceled after Trump tweeted his doubts about reaching a bipartisan deal to keep the government open and settle disputes over complex policy issues, including immigration and health care.
Despite the impasse, McConnell vowed Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “there’s not going to be a government shutdown. It’s just not going to happen.”
Republicans control both houses of Congress, but Democrats historically have had significant leverage in federal spending debates. In the House, no government spending bill has passed without at least 57 Democratic votes since Republicans recaptured control of the chamber in 2011. In the Senate, no spending bill has passed without at least 23 Democrats in support since the GOP seized control in 2015, according to congressional records.
Privately, Democratic aides say that talks are continuing among senior staff members about spending levels and changes in immigration policy that could win over enough Democrats in both chambers.
The leading concern in ongoing discussions is exactly how much more money the federal government plans to spend in the coming years. Currently, talks are focused on raising federal spending levels by $180 billion to $200 billion over the next two years, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing talks. Republicans are pushing for hundreds of billions more for Pentagon spending, but Democrats insist that it must be matched with equal money for nondefense programs.
In their statement, Schumer and Pelosi said Monday that several other “key priorities here at home” also need to be resolved.
The Democratic list includes funding to combat opioid addiction; shore up certain pension plans; pay for major infrastructure projects; replenish the Children’s Health Insurance Program and cash-strapped community health centers; and to help states ravaged by recent hurricanes and wildfires. Democrats also called on Republicans to work with them on an immigration plan that would protect dreamers and create new border security measures.
“There is a bipartisan path forward on all of these items,” the Democratic leaders said.