Congressional Party Leaders Hope to Reach Long-Term Spending Deal

Congressional Party Leaders Hope to Reach Long-Term Spending Deal Congressional Party Leaders Hope to Reach Long-Term Spending Deal U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 02 February 2022 03:02 PM

Senate leaders from both parties are meeting Wednesday for a second consecutive day on Capitol Hill in hopes of reaching a deal to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year before the Feb. 18 deadline.

The government has kept funding going under a series of short-term measures, but both sides are now seeing the benefit in reaching a longer-term resolution, reports The Washington Post.

However, the omicron variant of coronavirus has brought new discussions about another round of federal aid, and the tensions between Russia and Ukraine are bringing calls from Republicans for more defense spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday pointed out that there has been $6 trillion in coronavirus spending since the pandemic's beginnings in 2020, and called for "repurposing the hundreds of billions already sitting in the pipeline."

On Tuesday, Democrats huddled to discuss political strategy, and after that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave blessings for talks about a long-term spending bill, but both said they have not gotten an official offer from Republican leaders.

Late Tuesday, the leaders of the House and Senate's appropriations committees met, and after, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the lawmakers were seeking an agreement.

He added that there are still policy gaps that separate the parties from a deal, but said both sides want an agreement.

The promises, though, are different from actions in recent months, when the appropriations process was hindered by politics, including when Republicans sought to halt President Joe Biden's COVID-19 mandates.

Now, the lawmakers are seeking a deal to cover spending through the end of the fiscal year in September, but are facing a Feb. 18 deadline, meaning another short-term agreement must be reached or a compromise must be determined.

Democrats are seeking increases in federal domestic spending, which Shelby and other Republicans have called "poison pills."

Republicans, meanwhile, are looking for parity between defense and nondefense spending, notes The Post.

"We live in a troubled world and a lot of us think national security is important for this country,” said Shelby.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate appropriations panel, said he is always optimistic, but Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., would not outline expectations or timelines for Wednesday's meeting, instead saying that "the goal is to get an agreement."

The White House has said in recent months that there is still a great deal of money left from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed last spring and has started to prepare a request that is focused on public health needs, but Schumer told reporters Tuesday that nothing has yet been received.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the government will spend around $5.5 trillion in the current fiscal year, down significantly from spending in 2020 and 2021 after other pandemic relief funds have expired. The office also estimates the government will bring in about $4.4 trillion in revenue this year, which will leave a $1.15 trillion deficit. This is about one-third of the shortfall seen in 2021.

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