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US Senate leaders reach $300 billion federal spending deal

US Senate leaders reach $300 billion federal spending deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached a deal on Wednesday to fund the government over the next two years.

McConnell said the bill had required "extensive negotiation", and while "no one would suggest its ideal, . we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people".

Under Congress' arcane ways, a broad-brush agreement to increase legally binding spending "caps" - which would otherwise keep the budgets for the military and domestic agencies essentially frozen - would be approved, then followed by a far more detailed catchall spending bill that would take weeks to negotiate.

The U.S. House is set to vote Tuesday on a stopgap spending bill to avoid another government shutdown amid a frenzied effort to reach a long-term spending deal.

It would also extend the federal government's debt ceiling until March 2019, defusing a contentious issue and putting off for more than a year the risk of a debt default, which had loomed next month.

"We support funding our troops, but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do", the conservative House Freedom Caucus said late on Wednesday.

The House's move is calibrated to both appease conservative lawmakers who have become increasingly frustrated at the string of temporary spending measures and to also nudge senators to boost defense funding.

The spending bill would modify the discretionary spending caps enforced by the Budget Control Act for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

While Pelosi applauded parts of the budget deal, she said it did nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect DREAMers. The gap is expected to widen further due to new tax cuts that are projected to reduce revenue by nearly US$1.5 trillion over the next decade.Even as the threat of a government shutdown was ebbing in Congress, President Donald Trump was threatening to force one if Democrats refuse to meet his demands on immigration legislation.

Democrats have refused to sign on to any defense spending increase absent an agreement to bolster non-defense spending alongside it.

According to several sources involved, the votes will be there for this in the House, but that doesn't mean Democrats - who will have to provide a significant number of "yes" votes due to pockets of GOP opposition to the spending increases - will be happy about it. And that's already causing a snag in the House.

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A short-term spending measure in the House and a budget pact evolving in the Senate make it less likely the federal government will shut down Thursday night.

Democrats secured higher domestic spending levels than most Republicans support, as well as funds to combat the opioid crisis, improve veterans' health care, and fund the Children's Health Insurance Program for a decade.

It's clear House Republicans will need Democratic votes, but it isn't clear how many Democrats will go along without those assurances.

Pelosi said the House should debate immigration legislation and noted that Senate Republicans have slated a debate on the politically freighted subject starting next week.

The Senate and the House were both expected to vote on the proposed deal on Thursday.

On top of this, the spending outline would provide disaster relief for areas hit in last year's storms.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the deal would raise spending by "just shy" of $300 billion. The Pentagon will get as additional $80 billion this year, and $85 billion next year, while domestic spending is increased by $63 billion this year, and $68 billion next year.

For a solid hour or so Tuesday, negotiators working on this deal were holding their collective breath - President Donald Trump calling for a shutdown if border security wasn't addressed was, as one Republican aide working on the deal put it to me in a text: "Certainly not ideal!"

Immigration again emerged as a possible point of contention, putting the budget deal in jeopardy.

If that fails, the US government would suffer its second shutdown this year, after a partisan standoff over USA immigration policy led to a three-day partial shutdown last month.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been holding a fake filibuster of sorts, speaking since just after 10 a.m. Thursday morning on the House floor and telling the stories of people who came to the US illegally as children, known as Dreamers.

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