00:48 - Source: CNN
Nancy Pelosi: I don't think we're headed for a shutdown
Washington CNN  — 

Ten days away from running out of money, a spending agreement on Capitol Hill to continue funding the government is possible.

House Democrats want to start moving bills this week, multiple people involved say. A few weeks ago, the idea that a global agreement on all 12 spending bills would be in the cards would have seemed (somewhat) asinine, but as is often the case, when the deadline comes into view, all sorts of things become doable. Multiple people involve say there’s a pathway to an agreement that actually allows for all of the bills to move before the end of the year. But they aren’t there yet – and they aren’t just inches away, these people say. There are significant items that need to be closed out – and fast.

Bottom line

This is the point when House and Senate leadership will have to close out the thorniest issues. The most contentious issues were elevated to the four corners (top Republican and Democrats on Senate and House Appropriations) late last week, and there are still issues that need to be closed out at that level. But, particularly given the extremely tight timeline, expect leadership and the Trump administration to start getting heavily involved soon.

The clock

The US government runs out of money in 10 days.

What to watch

This is the point where meetings between the four corners and/or leadership and the key players in the Trump administration start to pop up. Keep an eye out for this Tuesday.

Will there be a shutdown?

Nobody is talking about a shutdown. If a global deal falls apart – and nobody is predicting that at the moment – a short-term punt into the new year is the fallback.

The biggest risk right now, given the sheer number of major items on the agenda and the sheer lack of time to get them down, is that lawmakers accidentally stumble into one because they run out of time procedurally. But nobody wants that – including the White House.

On that front

Again, just to make this abundantly clear: the legislative traffic jam right now is enormous. In the next 10 days, the House, according to multiple people involved, is expected to consider:

  • The National Defense Authorization Act
  • Prescription Drug Bill
  • Appropriations packages

It’s doable, but it’s a heavy lift. But perhaps more importantly from the spending bill perspective, it leaves the Senate – a much slower moving body – very little time to process whatever the House sends over. (To be clear, the Senate would only move the NDAA and appropriations bills out of this prospective group. USMCA will wait until next year.)

That’s exactly why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this on the Senate floor Monday: “It will require consent and cooperation for the Senate to consider legislation in a timely fashion.”

Shorter: everyone’s going to have to agree to move things quickly if an agreement is reached, or else stumbling into a shutdown becomes a real threat.


Failing to reach a full-year agreement would essentially eliminate the nearly $100 billion in extra money lawmakers secured in this year’s budget deal.

Also of note: a bipartisan group of House moderates said they would oppose future continuing resolutions after voting to extend the deadline to December 20 last month.

Don’t discount either of these two things as major fuel for a deal.

Daily gauge

This momentum for the agreement started to slow a little bit toward the weekend and Monday wasn’t any better, according to multiple lawmakers and aides involved. Monday was less so. “Tomorrow needs to be a better day,” was how one person involved framed it.

The timeline to pay attention to

House Democrats have discussed moving a package of spending measures this week. People involved say the ideal timeline, as communicated to negotiators as the likely best scenario, would be to move something by Thursday. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly because it kicks into a gear a process that needs to move extremely fast. If things don’t pick up in the talks, that timeline goes out the window. But that’s still a goal that’s out there.

The holdups

A lot of attention has been paid to the regular roadblocks: wall funding and immigration issues. But people involved say there are a significant number more, ranging from issues that can likely be closed out fairly easily once people focus solely on them to parochial California issues that have created an unusually contentious battle between key players. Immigration, as it has been for several years, specifically on issues like detention beds, is something that is still a major outstanding area. In other words, with a half dozen or more proposals traded back and forth in the last few days, there is still a lot outstanding.

About the wall

There is a sweet spot here that we reported on last week, but it hasn’t been agreed to yet. Basically, the Trump administration would be able to maintain its transfer authority to shift money to finance the wall, while settling on wall funding staying at its current $1.38 billion level, people involved said. But this isn’t a done deal and would require Democrats to agree to something – maintaining transfer authority – they are virulently opposed to. That said, it’s a possible way out that’s being considered.

Annual reminder

If the above seems daunting, just recognize that things can move very, very quickly once everything gets into gear.

As House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey said last week, in the truest words ever spoken, when she noted there were two weeks until the deadline: “That’s a lifetime in appropriations!”

The ticket to ride

To give you a sense of how much members on both sides, and in both chambers, think a deal is possible, a list of legislation that could possibly ride on the spending packages has been worked up and is being considered. This is the fun stuff – what gets a ride on the last train leaving the station. There are all sorts of possibilities, according to people involved, ranging from the just announced bipartisan surprise medical billing legislation, health care and tax extenders, federal funding for coal miner pensions that are on the brink of running out of cash, the Export-Import Bank and more. It’s possible only a few or none of these get in, but they are all very much in the discussion.

The problem with that

Adding anything to a live, complicated, ongoing negotiation – particularly one that needs to move quickly through the US Senate – is a potential problem. There’s every chance few things take the ride with any final spending packages. But that doesn’t mean members on both sides won’t take a run at it.