After a joint meeting on Wednesday, June 19 congressional leaders and the White House were no closer to an overall budget deal than they have been over the last several months. Unlike previous meetings this White House meeting included the Democrats. After the meeting was adjourned there was no deal and no consensus by participants of what actually happened in the meeting.
The White House leadership led by the Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney seemed to have a different version of the negotiations than some of the congressional participants especially the Democrats. The Republicans said that Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) had agreed to a debt ceiling negotiation not tied to a deal on overall budget caps and spending, but Democratic staffers were denying that was ever agreed to or even said by Pelosi. The two White House officials were also complaining about the funding increase Democrats are seeking on the non-defense spending side.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said he wasn’t clear what the next steps were. Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) told reporters that there had been an agreed to target for Senate spending negotiated by Shelby and his Democratic counterpart Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) but they had agreed to put that agreement aside at the request of the White House.
Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said that the Administration might settle for a one-year continuing resolution or “CR” that would be level funding while also raising the debt ceiling. However, to do that they would need an agreement by Democratic leaders—they don’t have one. Due to some programs that have various funding adjustments and increases for veterans’ programs a “level-funded” budget would cause cuts in some areas.
What all this means is we are a step closer to a potential government shut down and another potential crisis that would be a result of the failure to raise the debt ceiling.
As a backdrop the House finished action on their first minibus a package of four appropriations bills including the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. The House then started on a second minibus that includes five appropriations bills. H.R. 3055 includes the five appropriations for Commerce- Justice-Science, Agriculture-Rural Development-Food and Drug Administration, Interior- Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Transportation-Housing. Work should be finished by this week and that would leave three last appropriations before the House completes their FY 2020 work.
The Senate still has not started work on any of the 12 bills with time running short.