GOP, Dems upbeat about budget talks
The White House and top congressional leaders from both major parties issued upbeat assessments Wednesday after a Capitol Hill meeting in which they forged progress on a stack of unfinished Washington business, starting with a hoped-for bipartisan budget deal.
The session in the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., came with little more than two weeks before the next threatened government shutdown. Topping the agenda was an effort to spare both the Pentagon and domestic Cabinet agencies from spending cuts. Other issues, including immigration, disaster aid, and health care, also were discussed in hopes of resolving the raft of leftover issues, which could be a prelude to moving on to new business such as President Donald Trump’s overdue infrastructure plan.
Both sides issued bland but positive statements after the session, which lasted more than an hour and included White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
“We had a positive and productive meeting, and all parties have agreed to continue discussing a path forward to quickly resolve all of the issues ahead of us,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a joint statement.
The White House, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a joint statement of their own that they “hope that further discussions will lead to an agreement soon.” McConnell briefed fellow Republicans afterward and told them the session was “surprisingly good,” according to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, “I don’t think they reached any conclusions, but I think it was a fairly good meeting is what we were told.”
The budget debate has been roiled by a demand from Democrats that nondefense programs win increases equal to those to be awarded to the Pentagon. That was a feature of prior budget pacts in 2013 and 2015 that were negotiated during the tenure of President Barack Obama