Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that there is “widespread agreement” among leaders in Washington about the need to pass an omnibus spending package next month, despite calls from conservatives to punt such decisions into next year.
But the GOP leader cautioned there are “significant hurdles” to reaching a deal, which means talks could drag right up until Christmas to avoid a government shutdown.
“We had a really good meeting. Laid out the challenges that we’re all collectively facing here. I think there’s widespread agreement that we’d be better off with an omnibus than a [continuing resolution], but there are some significant hurdles to get over to do that,” McConnell told reporters after meeting with President Biden and congressional leaders at the White House.
He said that “for myself and I think the majority of my conference, defense and Ukraine” funding are “at the top of the list” of priorities.
But he said Democrats’ request for increased nondefense discretionary spending is a “sticking point.”
“We’re going to keep talking to each other,” he added.
McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will meet Wednesday with the Democratic chairmen and Republican ranking members of the Senate and House Appropriations committees to discuss the outlines of the spending package.
All four Senate and House party leaders met with Biden on Tuesday.
“We had a good discussion about funding the government. We all agreed that an omnibus would be better than a [continuing resolution],” Schumer told reporters after the meeting.
“We each laid out our criteria for the omnibus. Obviously they’re different, but we’ve agreed to sit down as early as tomorrow, the four appropriators and the four leaders, to try and resolve the issue and avoid any government shutdown. So it was a good and productive meeting,” he said.
McConnell and McCarthy agreeing on the need to pass an omnibus spending bill instead of a stopgap spending measure or continuing resolution that would freeze federal funding until next year is a significant development.
Conservatives led by Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have called for a stopgap to last until 2023 to give Republicans more leverage in the spending talks once they control the House.
But McCarthy, who is running to become the next Speaker, appears to prefer starting off the next Congress with a clean slate instead of having to negotiate a massive spending deal with Democrats while leading a narrow House GOP majority.
Scott, in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner on Tuesday, accused Republican leaders of “caving” to Democrats’ spending demands.
“I ran for Senate leader because the current plan of routinely caving in and allowing Schumer and Biden to win must stop and because we must become a party with a plan to rescue America,” Scott wrote, referring to his unsuccessful bid earlier this month to challenge McConnell for the top Senate Republican leadership job.
“Everyone says compromise is crucial in Washington. That’s fine. But it’s about time we stop compromising our principles and start making the Democrats compromise theirs,” he wrote.