How Democrats Could Wrangle a Big Bump in Domestic Spending

How Democrats Could Wrangle a Big Bump in Domestic Spending

The Fiscal Times

Senate Democrats are budging in their budget talks. Lawmakers on the left have insisted for months that enacting protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children be tied to any long-term deal lifting federal spending limits. But in the wake of their agreement to end the short-lived government shutdown this weeks, Senate Democrats are dropping their demand that the two issues be linked, Politico reports.

That means a budget deal could soon be clinched. Immigration was likely always going to be the thornier issue, and “budget negotiators are expressing optimism that a two-year agreement to lift stiff caps on defense and domestic spending is increasingly within reach,” Politico’s Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Burgess Everett write.

The deal could raise spending by $250 billion or more over two years. A couple of significant obstacles remain, though. For one thing, House Democrats aren’t willing to separate the two issues, and the intra-party divide is complicating negotiations. And nailing down the final details of a budget deal will still take some work.

The outlines of a deal are getting clearer, at least. While the numbers could still change, negotiators have agreed to raise defense spending by at least $70 billion above the caps for 2018 and $80 billion for 2019. Democrats have insisted on “parity” — equal increases for non-defense spending — but getting there might involve “creative budgetary maneuvers,” according to Politico:

“Republican leaders are proposing tens of billions of dollars in additional domestic spending that wouldn’t count toward the caps, sources say. That would likely include billions in emergency funding to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, which both parties have called a priority.” And some programs with bipartisan backing — “like VA Choice, the private-sector health care program for veterans” — would be reclassified as mandatory spending so they don’t count against the discretionary caps.