(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to attempt to complete delayed fiscal 2023 US government funding bills, but an agreement on the level of spending remains elusive weeks before a Dec. 16 deadline.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from a morning White House meeting with Biden and top Republicans to say that everyone present had committed to trying to avoid yet another stopgap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, when current funding runs out.
“We all agreed that we would rather not have a CR,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said he wants to avoid another stopgap bill, but would only support a full-year appropriations package with lower total spending levels and more resources for border security. If negotiators cannot meet GOP demands, he said he want to pass a temporary bill and have the new Congress take up the funding issue in January, when the GOP will control the House.
“I have no problem coming back in January and getting it right,” McCarthy told reporters. Republicans will control the House in January and McCarthy is in line to be speaker.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose votes McCarthy needs to become House speaker, have urged McCarthy to delay any spending decisions until next year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP will try to convince Democrats to reduce the level of domestic spending in the bill, even as Republicans advocate for higher defense and Ukraine aid levels.
“Their insistence on continuing to request astronomical increases on the non-defense domestic side is a sticking point. So that’s where we are and we’re going to keep talking to each other and hope to work this out,” he said.
House Democrats are pushing for $1.6 trillion in discretionary funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, about $100 billion more than the funding level in last year’s spending package.
Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters Monday that Congress could need a one-week spending bill to give lawmakers more time to complete talks by Christmas Eve on Dec. 24. Because of a focus on the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff, Shelby said, tough final negotiations on spending probably wouldn’t start until Dec. 7.
Even as Congress attempts to strike a deal to avoid a shutdown, there appears to be no progress in defusing a possible debt ceiling crisis next year.
Raising the nation’s $31 trillion debt ceiling did not come up at the White House meeting, Pelosi said. Many Democrats fear that once Republicans assume control of the House, they will attempt to leverage the debt ceiling to extract spending cuts.
Democrats could use the partisan budget process to raise the ceiling in December without GOP support but leaders have shown no interest in doing so.
--With assistance from Mike Dorning and Jack Fitzpatrick.
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