Agreement on Top-Line Spending Levels Reduces Risk of Shutdown

  • Top appropriators agree to allocations for 12 bills
  • Both sides aim to complete all 12 bills by Dec. 20

Top congressional negotiators have agreed to a set of spending levels for legislation to fund the government in fiscal 2020, a move that reduces the chance of a shutdown in late December.

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and her Senate counterpart, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), have reached agreement on the figures, according to two people familiar with the talks. By deciding on top-line spending figures for the 12 fiscal 2020 appropriations bills, House and Senate lawmakers can begin negotiating the details of the bills with an eye toward striking a deal to avoid a shutdown or another short-term stopgap measure in late December.

President Donald Trump signed a month-long stopgap bill on Thursday, funding the government at fiscal 2019 levels through Dec. 20, the second time negotiators have punted on a full spending agreement this fiscal year.

Lawmakers are now working to complete all 12 bills before that deadline, though some have said they’re skeptical all the bills can be finished. The most difficult to complete will be the measure covering the Department of Homeland Security. Lawmakers have described Trump’s border wall funding request in the homeland bill as the main sticking point in discussions.

House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) said earlier this month it would probably take “a miracle” to finish bicameral work on her bill by the end of the calendar year because of the debate over wall funding. In contrast, the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the largest domestic appropriations measure, could be drafted in about a week after an allocations agreement, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) who leads that subcommittee in the Senate.

Subcommittee members and staffers will begin work immediately on bills that can pass both chambers, both people said, though they declined to provide specifics on the allocation amounts. The figures, called 302(b) numbers, aren’t subject to a vote, so they aren’t likely to be revealed by lawmakers until the appropriations bills are publicly released.

The agreement will not alter the budget caps deal (Public Law 116-37) reached over the summer, which set top-line defense and nondefense spending levels, one of the people said. Democrats had pushed for an increase to those spending levels, but the Trump administration didn’t support the proposal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jack Fitzpatrick in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at