Republican leaders plan to enter budget discussions with the White House shortly to reach a deal over topline spending for fiscal 2016 and 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday.
“I hope that we in the fall negotiation can get some kind of an agreement on a top line for next year so we can finally, at long last, get back to acting on each appropriations bill separately,” McConnell said, reported CQ Roll Call. The Senate leader also revealed that he and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke with President Obama last week about launching budget talks.
“I would expect them to start very soon,” McConnell said.
An effort to reach a two-year budget deal would mirror the agreement reached in late 2013 that provided relief from the discretionary spending caps in FY 2014 and 2015 for defense and non-defense agencies.
Meanwhile, the Senate is scheduled to vote this morning on a short-term continuing resolution that keeps the government open when the new fiscal year begins Thursday. The stopgap runs through Dec. 11 and does not strip Planned Parenthood of funding. After the Senate approves the CR, the House is expected to take it up before the end of the day to avert a federal shutdown.
The House will only have a matter of hours to act before the midnight deadline, but House Republicans widely believe the chamber will pass the CR in time, according to CQ.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) applauded the news that McConnell favors a two-year budget deal and stressed the need to combine negotiations over spending with an effort to extend the nation’s debt ceiling.
“They have to be handled together. It’s the only way to intelligently do this,” Reid said.
When asked about raising the debt ceiling before he steps down from his post at the end of October, Boehner on Tuesday did not rule it out. “We’ll have to see. There’s a number of issues we’re going to try to deal with in the coming month,” he told reporters.