House, Senate Reach Partial Funding Deal to Help Avert Shutdown

(Bloomberg) -- Republicans and Democrats in Congress said Monday they’ve reached a deal on the first of a series of government spending packages intended to avert a federal shutdown in October.

The $147 billion package would fund the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, the Army Corps of Engineers, military construction projects and the legislative branch. The House plans to vote on it this week. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met last week with President Donald Trump in an effort to persuade him to sign bills funding most of the federal government this month and postpone a fight over funding for a wall at the Mexico border until after the Nov. 6 congressional election.

Trump has suggested a "good shutdown" may be needed to force Democrats to agree to his proposal for $5 billion in border wall funds for fiscal 2019. After the meeting, Trump said he had a “commitment” from McConnell and Ryan to force a spending showdown with Democrats over the wall “right after the election.”

Senate Democrats have said they would back $1.6 billion in border wall money and they have the power to block a spending bill providing more, which would need 60 votes to advance.

Republicans and Democrats are negotiating two other packages of funding bills for votes this month that would fund the rest of the federal government except the departments of State, Commerce, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the science agencies. These agencies would stay at current funding levels until either November or December, and they could be the parts of the government that would be shut down if Trump carries out his threat.

The Monday spending agreement was reached after lawmakers agreed not to raise the annual budget cap to pay for new veterans’ health spending -- creating a future shortfall. They also agreed to Democratic demands and dropped a Republican plan to suspend a number of regulations as part of the measure. The bill provides funds to pay congressional interns for the first time and maintains a pay freeze for lawmakers.

"The American people expect us to get our work done. If we continue to work together in a bipartisan manner we can successfully fund nearly 90 percent of the federal government on time through regular order -- something Congress has not been able to do in many years," Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said in a prepared statement.

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