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Lowey: Appropriations deal could be struck this weekend

House Appropriations chairwoman says House could vote next week

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., sounded optimistic that negotiations over a spending bill could wrap up over the weekend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., sounded optimistic that negotiations over a spending bill could wrap up over the weekend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said Friday the House could begin voting on final spending bills for the current fiscal year next week.

After months of partisan stalemate, the New York Democrat struck a decidedly optimistic tone in predicting that negotiations on a final spending deal could wrap up this weekend, clearing the way for floor votes to begin. Lawmakers have been scrambling to complete a deal before current funding runs dry on Dec. 20.

“We are getting all the reports from the subcommittees and then we are going to be working all weekend and hopefully getting it all resolved,” Lowey said. “Maybe a couple issues will have to be pushed upwards, but we hope to get it resolved by the end of the weekend.”

[Appropriators set Friday deadline for unresolved issues]

If a deal is reached, Lowey said the House would begin voting on spending packages next week. “I expect we have to,” she said, though procedural plans were still being discussed.

Voting on final fiscal 2020 appropriations bills in several packages means Congress would avoid another massive omnibus measure that would total about $1.37 trillion. President Donald Trump has vowed never to sign another omnibus, saying such a measure includes excessive spending that gets little scrutiny. And a deal reached over the summer between congressional leaders and the White House stipulated they would not resort to another such catchall bill.

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Appropriations subcommittees have until 6 p.m. Friday to submit their bills with a list of any unresolved issues to committee leadership, Lowey said. “I’m just getting all the material back from the subcommittees,” she said. “We’ll work all weekend and then we still have two weeks.”

[Wasserman Schultz enters race for top Democrat on Appropriations]

Senior appropriators have sounded increasingly hopeful that a deal could come together in time to avoid another stopgap continuing resolution that simply extends current funding levels into early next year. “My job is pretty much finished,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Energy-Water subcommittee, in describing the state of her bill.

“Our bill is looking good,” added Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., who oversees the Transportation-HUD bill. “We’re concerned about policy provisions, we haven’t been able to resolve all of those, but that’s always the way it is.”

And in another positive sign, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., had a “productive conversation” with Trump on Thursday night about the appropriations process. Trump “was positive and encouraging about working with” Congress to complete a deal, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Before that conversation with the president, Shelby had said he was “guarded” about reaching a deal by this weekend, since the big obstacles had yet to be resolved. Those include funding for a southern border wall, gun policy, and an effort by Democrats to restrict Trump’s authority to transfer funding from other programs for a wall.

Lowey did not appear to rule out allowing the president to retain his transfer authority, a key demand of the White House. “I assume if he’s going to insist on it, there will be discussions,” she told reporters. “I’m not going to discuss specifics now.”

Trump requested $8.6 billion for wall construction this fiscal year, while Democrats have sought little or no funding.

Paul M. Krawzak and Jim Saksa contributed to this report.

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