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White House, GOP Near Two-Year Budget Deal

According to Senior White House officials, congressional leaders are close to finalizing a two-year budget deal.

The agreement would carry the federal budget through the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

The Hill reports:

It would also raise the nation’s debt ceiling to March 2017, according to a congressional source.

White House budget director Shaun Donovan and legislative affairs director Katie Beirne Fallon are hammering out the package with staff representing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to be elected Speaker on Thursday, but he has not taken part in these budget negotiations, aides said. Since announcing his plans to resign, Boehner has said he wants to “clean the barn up a little bit” before he leaves Congress at the end of the week.
“Hopefully we’re able to announce something this evening,” said the Senate source, who added the length of the agreement has yet to be finalized.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that administration officials have been a part of bipartisan budget talks on Capitol Hill. But he downplayed speculation that a deal is at hand.

“Not everything has been agreed to. That means nothing has been agreed to,” Earnest told reporters. “We continue to urge Republicans to engage constructively with Democrats to find common ground and do the right thing for the country.”

The Treasury Department has set a Nov. 3 deadline for raising the nation’s $18.1 trillion debt limit.

Lawmakers also face a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the government.

Members have been battling over how to fund the government and provide relief from a separate 2011 deal that created budget ceilings known as the sequester. Republicans have pushed to end the sequester for the Defense Department, but President Obama and Democrats want to get rid of the caps for both defense and nondefense spending.

A House source said that under the emerging package, both defense and nondefense programs would receive equal sequester relief.

The budget talks have also been linked to a long-term highway funding bill and a measure to renew the Export-Import Bank, but a congressional aide said those measures were not a part of the final deal.

The source said the final deal did include language to prevent double-digit premium hikes that would hit 8 million Medicare enrollees in 2016.

Averting the 52 percent premium increases has been a priority for Pelosi and could help win Democratic support for the package.

She began talks on the topic with Boehner in mid-September. Staving off the increases is expected to cost about $7.5 billion, and Democratic aides have said Pelosi’s office was quietly negotiating with Boehner on the offsets.
Highway funding must be renewed by the end of the week. The House and Senate have been working toward a bill that would provide six years of funding.

Authority for the Export-Import Bank expired this summer, and supporters in the House have backed a discharge petition that would force a vote on renewing the bank’s charter. Ex-Im has support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, but many conservatives oppose it.

McConnell has opposed a vote on a stand-alone Ex-Im reauthorization, but it could be possible to renew the bank as part of this broader measure.

Top House Republicans were expected to discuss a possible spending package at their weekly leadership meeting Monday afternoon.

Photo credit: Huffington Post.

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