By Andrew Duehren and Andrew Restuccia
WASHINGTON -- Top Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they reached a tentative agreement on federal government spending, giving Congress and the White House about a week to approve the particulars before funding runs out after Dec. 20.
"There's a meeting of the minds," House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) said on Thursday. Still, the White House has yet to sign off on the accord, administration officials said, and House Republicans have also not yet agreed to it, according to a House GOP aide.
The agreement follows a meeting on Thursday between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Leaving that meeting, Mr. Mnuchin said that negotiators were focusing on a small list of remaining issues and that he planned to update President Trump on the talks later Thursday.
The agreement covers nearly $1.4 trillion in discretionary government spending across a dozen bills for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2020. Negotiators still need to agree on the language of legislation, which is expected to be released on Monday, leaving the two sides the weekend to iron out any final issues.
The agreement, if finalized would be a compromise on the contentious issue of a proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Under the deal, Congress would approve roughly the same amount of funding it did last fiscal year for building a barrier -- $1.38 billion -- while leaving the president's ability to redirect government funds untouched, according to four of the people familiar with the negotiations.
President Trump had asked for $8.6 billion for the wall in his budget request, and Democrats had sought to block new funding for the wall and curb the president's ability to redesignate money to build it.
Mr. Trump has siphoned money from the Pentagon, including $3.6 billion for military construction projects, to build a wall, though that effort has been repeatedly challenged in court. The funding agreement wouldn't restore funding for the projects that lost money to wall construction, a key Democratic demand, according to three of the people.
Deep disagreements about paying for the border wall have racked the spending process for years, holding up hundreds of billions in other funding and leading to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which ended earlier this year. Congress has temporarily extended funding twice in the last few months as the two sides haggled over the border wall, a central priority for Mr. Trump.
If the tentative deal moves forward, lawmakers will still face a tight schedule to pass each of the dozen annual spending bills before the last stopgap measure expires after Dec. 20 -- and many lawmakers plan to head home for the holidays. House members said they aim to bring packages of the bills to the floor on Tuesday, giving the Senate just days to decide on the legislation before the end of next week.
The agreement still could face resistance both from Democrats resistant to supporting any wall funding and Republicans who hoped to see more money spent on border security.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Democratic Congressional leadership on Wednesday to discuss their priorities in the negotiations.
"We would like to see a way to limit transfer authority, so it's not just a shell game and the president is just taking money from the military or from some other pot to build a wall," said Rep. Joaqun Castro (D., Texas), the chairman of the Hispanic Caucus.
Even without an agreement, the chances remain strong that some solution would be found to keep the federal government funded. Mrs. Pelosi has repeatedly vowed to avert another government shutdown, and Mr. Trump has privately told advisers that he wants to avoid a funding lapse.
Successful passage of the funding deal would mark another bipartisan victory in the final days of 2019. Even as House Democrats move forward with their bid to impeach the president, lawmakers have gone ahead with a renewed North American trade deal and a defense authorization bill after months of negotiations.
Write to Andrew Duehren at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrew Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 12, 2019 18:52 ET (23:52 GMT)
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