Senate leaders hope to clear the way for years of budget harmony this week with a long-term spending agreement amid fresh calls from President Trump to shut down the government over immigration.
Trump made the comments during a roundtable briefing at the White House on threats from the MS-13 criminal gang. He appeared to endorse shutting down the government if Democrats do not agree to increases in military spending and funding for a border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
"I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this taken care of," Trump said. "We need to strengthen our borders, not by a little bit but by a lot."
Trump's aggressive approach contradicts a growing sense of optimism in the Senate over the fate of a bipartisan bipartisan budget agreement.
Senate leaders said Tuesday that they are nearing a deal on budget and spending plan and could release the measure in time to add it to a short-term spending bill that must be approved by the end of the day on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to discuss the negotiations.
"I'm optimistic that very soon we'll be able to reach an agreement," McConnell told reporters after the meeting.
Schumer said the pair "are closer to an agreement than we have ever been."
That plan is expected to lock in increases for domestic and military spending for two years. Such a plan would provide Congress a much-needed respite from what has become a constant struggle to keep the government funded.
Democrats want to ensure equal increases for domestic and military programs. If Republicans agree, it could ease the way for a broad, bipartisan Senate vote on the spending plan.
The progress comes as the U.S. House prepares to vote Tuesday on a stopgap spending bill to avoid another government shutdown amid a frenzied effort to reach a long-term spending deal. House Republicans are expected to easily pass the bill to fund the government through March 23 and extend military funding for one year.
That measure is expected to easily pass the House with mostly Republican votes. Conservatives like the plan for long-term military spending, but they generally oppose more funding for many of the domestic policies that would get a short-term extension.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters on Monday that it would be difficult for conservatives to support a bigger budget deal that increases spending across the board.
"Based on the the numbers that have bantered around, conservatives are not real wild about the non-defense discretionary," Meadows said. "Certainly that will change the mix of the vote count over on this side. If you plus up the size of government substantially, it certainly loses some conservatives."
But a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate could encourage enough House Democrats to back the bill to make up for any conservatives who balk at a broader deal.
The disagreement may mean the spending bill will bounce back and forth between the House and Senate several times in the coming days as the two sides try to resolve their differences. Lawmakers say they remain confident that a spending bill of some kind will be approved before the Thursday deadline.
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