Congressional negotiators reach deal on spending levels

The top two appropriators in Congress clinched a deal on topline spending levels that should clear the way for at least some of the 12 spending bills to be passed and signed into law before the December 20 deadline, according to two aides with direct knowledge.

Bipartisan lawmakers and the Trump administration have been in lengthy negotiations over the topline numbers for months amid disagreements over several key elements, most notably money for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, reached the agreement Saturday as leaders in both parties urged action to eliminate the threat of another government shutdown.

Lawmakers are likely to move the bills in packages — likely four at a time — while leaving the most contentious elements in bills, like the Department of Homeland Security funding measure, to be negotiated over time.

The topline numbers set spending levels for each appropriations subcommittee, and the bipartisan agreement should clear the path to quick action on a number of the bills.

But the agreement doesn’t eliminate the need for negotiations over the most contentious elements, which will be handled at the subcommittee level, aides said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have committed to attempting to finish all bills before the end of the year, something that would lock in the tens of billions in added funding agreed to in a bipartisan budget deal earlier this year.