White House, Lawmakers Confer on Spending Bills
Two senior White House budget advisers on Wednesday met with congressional leaders to discuss the fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) and the 10 other unapproved FY 2008 appropriations bills, but "there were no signs of a breakthrough," CongressDaily reports.
Participants in the negotiations included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle.
None of the participants commented on the discussions, but individuals familiar with the situation said that talks did not result in an agreement on overall spending levels (Cohn , CongressDaily, 12/6). According to Reid, "we're not at the negotiation stage yet" (Cohn , CongressDaily, 12/6).
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders continued work on an estimated $520 billion omnibus budget package that would combine the 11 unapproved appropriations bills and divide the difference between the amount of domestic spending sought by Democrats and requested by President Bush. The House likely will vote on the package on Dec. 11 (Clarke/Higa, CQ Today, 12/6).
Democratic leaders would introduce the package as an "amendment between the chambers," rather than a conference report, a move that would allow amendments in the Senate and increase the likelihood of passage. The move also could allow the package to obtain adequate support for an override of an expected veto by Bush.
The package likely would move to Bush for consideration near Dec. 14, when the current continuing resolution will expire. In the event that Bush vetoes the package and "enough Republicans support him, the alternative would be to stay in session until Christmas to take up a bill that cuts domestic programs to Bush's overall $933 billion spending target," CongressDaily reports.
According to CongressDaily, "Democratic leaders were optimistic it would not get to that point." Hoyer said, "I'm hopeful the administration and the Congress and the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate can come to agreement on reasonable numbers on appropriations bills" (Cohn , CongressDaily, 12/6).