They’re getting closer. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday morning that the two sides working on a deal to raise spending caps and the debt ceiling have reached agreement on top-line budget numbers for 2020 and 2021 and a two-year increase in federal borrowing authority.
“I don’t think the market should be concerned,” Mnuchin said. “I think everybody is in agreement that we won’t do anything that puts the U.S. government at risk in terms of our issue of defaulting. I think that nobody wants a shutdown in any scenario. So I don’t think the market should be concerned, and we’re working hard. We’ll get there one way or another.”
That doesn’t mean they’re actually close to a deal, though. The administration reportedly wants $150 in spending cuts to offset the increases, The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Damian Paletta reported, adding that the goal “could be out of reach without slashing domestic programs that Democrats want to protect.” The administration reportedly also wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to guarantee that she won’t look to add policy riders to future spending bills, another demand that could potentially scuttle a deal.
Mnuchin acknowledged Thursday that the parties “have a way to go.” And an unnamed senior administration official told the Post that Pelosi’s optimism that the House could vote on a deal next Thursday “sounds like happy talk from the Speaker who has been absent from talks for the last three months and now is trying to create momentum after a bad couple weeks.”
Trump administration dynamics add another level of risk to the ongoing talks. “Behind the scenes, the more important differences may not be those between Pelosi and Mnuchin but between Mnuchin and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney,” the Post’s Tory Newmyer said.
And President Trump looms as an ever-present risk to blow up any agreement. “Trump has been warm to the proposal as it’s taken shape, according to multiple senators who have spoken with him in recent days. But GOP backers of a deal fear a last-ditch push from hard-line conservatives inside the administration and Congress to reject any bipartisan compromise,” Politico reported.