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Key GOP senator: ‘We need a breakthrough’ on spending talks

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on Monday that the negotiations on top-line spending numbers need a “breakthrough,” in the latest sign of trouble for the talks. 

Shelby, speaking with reporters, said “impediments” have cropped up in the government funding talks, a U-turn from late last week when he said he was “optimistic” about the chances of reaching an agreement soon.

“I thought Thursday after we left the Speaker’s office that we might have had a breakthrough, we haven’t had a breakthrough yet,” Shelby told reporters. “It’s not just the allocations, it’s dealing with the wall.”  

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Asked about the chances of getting a deal this week on the top-line spending figures for the 12 appropriations bills, known as 302 (b)s, Shelby replied: “We’re where we are. We need a breakthrough.” 

“We’re just looking for a way to resolve our problems, and it seems like we make a couple steps positive, and then sideways and slip backwards. It’s frustrating at times for everybody,” he added. 

Shelby met with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Thursday. 

He said after the closed-door powwow that he was “optimistic,” and that it was the “best meeting we’ve had in months.” 

Both Shelby and Lowey said after the meeting that they wanted a deal on 302 (b)s by Wednesday. 

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The government is currently funded through Thursday Lawmakers are currently expected to pass a second stopgap spending bill through Dec. 20, buying negotiators more time to try to reach a deal on the larger fiscal year 2020 bills. 

Once lawmakers are able to get a deal on the top-line figures, they would still need to iron out the fiscal 2020 bills. Though the Senate has passed four and the House has passed 10, they’ve reached final agreements on none of the 12 bills. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier Monday backed a “clean” continuing resolution through Dec. 20, saying he wants to wrap up as much of the fiscal 2020 bills as possible by the end of the year.

“This is our opportunity to get a bipartisan process back on track … and then with more cooperation, we can reach agreement on allocations and pass as many of the 12 appropriations bills as possible before the end of the year,” he added.

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