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White House, GOP near two-year budget deal

FROM:  THEHILL.COM

By Alexander Bolton – 10/26/15 12:35 PM EDT

Senior White House officials and congressional leaders are nearing a deal to raise the debt limit and set the budget for the next two years, say sources familiar with the talks.

The agreement is not yet final as negotiators still need to settle a dispute over controversial policy riders, but congressional leaders hope to announce something Monday evening, according to a Senate source. The deal would cover the 2016 and 2017 budget years.

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White House budget director Shaun Donovan and legislative affairs director Katie Beirne Fallon are hammering out the package with staff representing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

Legislation to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government are central to the deal, but the talks are also said to include legislation to fund highway and infrastructure construction and to renew the Export-Import Bank for one year.

“Hopefully we’re able to announce something this evening,” said a Senate source, who added the length of the agreement has yet to be finalized.

Boehner, who is set to leave Congress at the end of the week, said after he resigned the Speakership that he hoped to clear the decks for his successor.

The Treasury Department has set a Nov. 3 deadline for raising the nation’s $18.1 trillion debt limit.

Lawmakers also face a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the government.

Members have been battling over how to fund the government and provide relief from a separate 2011 budget deal that introduced budget ceilings known as the sequester. Many Republicans have pushed to end the sequester for the Defense Department, while President Obama and Democrats want relief from the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending.

Highway funding must be renewed by the end of the week. The House and Senate have been battling to complete work on a bill that would provide six years of funding.

Authority for the Export Import Bank expired this summer. Suppoters in the House have backed a discharge petition to force a vote on renewing the bank, which is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups but opposed by many conservatives.

Senate Majoirty Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has opposed a vote on a stand-alone Ex-Im reauthorization, but it could be possible to renew the bank as part of a broader measure.

The deal is also likely to prevent the double-digit premium hikes that would hit 8 million Medicare enrollees in 2016.
Averting the 52-percent premium increases has been a personal priority for Pelosi (D-Calif.), and could help win Democratic support for the package.

She began talks on the topic with Boehner in mid-September. Staving off the increases is expected to cost about $7.5 billion, and Democratic aides have said Pelosi’s office was quietly negotiating with Boehner on the offsets.

House GOP appropriators said they are also hearing rumblings of the two-year budget deal. Top House Republicans were expected to discuss a possible spending package at their weekly leadership meeting Monday afternoon.

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