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Congressional Negotiators Strike Spending Deal to Avoid a Pre-Christmas Shutdown

Yuval Rosenberg

Congressional appropriators have reportedly reached a deal “in principle” to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year and avert a potential shutdown at the end of next week.

The agreement on annual spending bills covering nearly $1.4 trillion in discretionary outlays could reportedly follows an earlier meeting between the top House and Senate appropriators, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Lawmakers have been working to finalize the long-delayed spending bills for fiscal year 2020 ahead of a December 20 deadline, when the current stopgap federal funding expires.

"We will complete our work for all 12 [fiscal 2020] bills," said Rep. Nita Lowey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, according to Roll Call’s David Lerman and Jennifer Shutt.

Status quo on Trump’s wall? That outcome had been in serious question as negotiations were slowed for months by differences over issues large and small — most notably, the matter of funding for construction of President Trump’s desired barriers along the border with Mexico. Appropriators reportedly plan to provide $1.375 billion for border barrier construction, the same as in fiscal 2019 and less than the $5 billion the White House had wanted.

Negotiators worked “under a mutual understanding that the border issues would have to be resolved somewhere close to the status quo, in which Congress provides only a fraction of the money Trump has requested for the wall but he retains the power to shift funds from elsewhere in the government,” The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reported. A ruling this week by a federal district court judge blocking the use of $3.6 billion in military funds for barrier construction tilts the status quo in Democrats’ favor, DeBonis noted.

A wild week ahead: “The tentative agreement sets the stage for a remarkable sequence of events next week in the House, with a presidential impeachment sandwiched between bipartisan deals on federal spending and North American trade,” The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis wrote Thursday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly said he hopes the House will vote on the spending bills on Tuesday, potentially in a series of two or more “minibus” packages grouping spending bills together. The Senate would follow later in the week, with limited time to push the deal through. President Trump will then need to sign the legislation.

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