White House role in funding talks unknown

capitol dome and bills 

A spokesperson for the Senate's top Democrat said the caucus is not negotiating a funding deal with the White House in the run up to the deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.

The continuing resolution currently funding the government expires on April 28. Both chambers of Congress are out on their Easter recess and won't return until April 24, leaving just four days to hammer out an appropriations package or another stopgap spending bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that his counterpart Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) is "in negotiations with the White House, which is important, because we'll need Democratic votes to pass the government funding bill when we get back."

However, Schumer spokesperson Matt House issued a statement on April 7 denying that the minority leader and the Trump administration were talking.

"The White House has not been heavily involved and Senator Schumer is not engaged in appropriations talks with the administration," House said. "House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have been making very good progress on an appropriations package to fund the government. The only thing that could derail that progress is the White House insisting on their extraneous demands, which would meet bipartisan opposition."

The news makes the appropriations outlook a little murkier, because it's not clear how much the White House expects get from its bid to take $18 billion from the coffers of non-defense agencies for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 and use the funds for defense and homeland security activities.

An aide to Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told CBS News that the cuts were off the table in current funding talks.

Senate appropriators from both parties have indicated that were not inclined to add funding for a planned border wall. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that supplemental funding for the wall isn't necessary in the current fiscal year "because they literally can’t start construction even this quickly."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at an April 6 press conference that the negotiating teams from the Appropriations committees were hashing out a punch list of unresolved issues, that they were down -- by her last count -- to 115 particular issues and that members and staffers were working quickly.

"My read on it is that members of Congress know what they can pass.  Maybe the White House doesn't,"  Pelosi said.  "And that line of communication is where you might see some more difference of opinion than even between Democrats and Republicans in the Congress."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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