“We had a productive meeting,” Mnuchin told reporters as he left Pelosi’s leadership suite. He added, the White House has “no intention” of allowing a shutdown.
The meeting between Pelosi and Mnuchin — who is the White House’s designated negotiator with Democrats — comes seven days ahead of the next funding deadline.
“We’re very close,” added a Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations. On the possibility of a deal, the person added: “If we can get everyone to sign off, it could be tomorrow or Monday.”
Congressional and White House leaders have been deadlocked for months over $5 billion for Trump’s wall, a battle that threatens to force the government to pass yet another kick-the-can spending bill or — in the worst case scenario — another Christmastime shutdown. Last year, the battle over funding the president’s demand for a border wall led to a 35-day shutdown.
Leaders of both parties are now discussing ways to punt a decision on Trump’s border wall for as long as possible, while starting work on funding bills besides the contentious Department of Homeland Security bill.
“Republicans appear willing to set aside discussing the wall for now in hopes of achieving the bipartisan goal of finalizing the allocations,” a senior Democratic aide said after the meeting.
One idea is to use emergency cash to pay for bipartisan initiatives like the VA Mission Act — a new veterans program that Trump himself has championed — that could free up some money for DHS.
That would not resolve the border wall issue, but it would at least allow both parties to move past it for now as they begin work on other funding bills.
Asked about the multi-billion dollar wall hurdle, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said it was not specifically discussed in the meeting: “We were discussing the process.”
“There was a general agreement from all sides that it was important to get our work done. And we intend to move forward,” Lowey told reporters.
Both parties have already agreed to pass a month-long stopgap, buying more time to reach a broader deal. The bigger question is how much work Democrats and Republicans can get done before the new deadline of Dec. 20.
The House will take up the stopgap bill next week, followed by the Senate. White House officials have said Trump will sign it, though lawmakers are still privately worried the president may reject it amid the Democrats’ impeachment ramp-up.
“Look, we’re all still talking about various challenges associated with funding the government. And we’re going to work it all out,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was not in the meeting, later told reporters.
Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes contributed.