The short-term spending legislation — known as a “continuing resolution,” or CR — was expected to pass the House later Tuesday.
“We have reached an agreement with Republicans on the CR to add nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families,” Pelosi said. “Democrats secured urgently needed assistance for schoolchildren to receive meals despite the coronavirus’s disruption of their usual schedules.”
There was no immediate comment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had reacted angrily Monday when Pelosi released a different version of the bill that left out the farm bailout money.
However, the legislation — which extends government funding through Dec. 11 — is expected to sail through the House with strong bipartisan support and could come to the Senate floor later this week.
Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Sept. 30 or large portions of the government would begin to shut down. The bill also must be signed by President Trump ahead of the shutdown deadline.
The deal came together after a series of ups and downs, beginning with talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin unexpectedly breaking down late Friday after they’d appeared on the cusp of an agreement. Lacking a deal, Pelosi released her own bill Monday and announced a House vote for Tuesday.
But on Tuesday morning, she and Mnuchin re-opened negotiations. Pelosi set aside the partisan bill she’d released on Monday and unveiled a new one that was expected to come to the House floor under expedited voting rules Tuesday night.
Even with much attention on Capitol Hill focused on the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there was little appetite on either side for brinkmanship around a government shutdown.
As part of the stopgap spending bill, Republicans have sought to replenish a $30 billion borrowing fund called the Commodity Credit Corporation, a New Deal-era program that Trump has used to reimburse farmers harmed by his trade policies and tariffs. Democratic leaders oppose the additional money, partly because they say Trump could use it for political purposes.
At a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, Trump announced a new package of aid for farmers from the CCC, which he has used in an unprecedented way to distribute largesse. Under previous administrations, the CCC was used for much more limited purposes, and some Democrats charge that Trump has essentially turned it into a slush fund.
But there are also several endangered House Democrats who support the program, including Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, freshmen members who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 and now face tough reelection races. Axne and Finkenauer both signed a letter along with Iowa’s two Republican senators, Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst, blasting exclusion of the CCC money and declaring, “Our farmers should not be used as a bargaining chip for negotiations.”
Before talks collapsed Friday night, Pelosi had been seeking an agreement with Mnuchin that would bulk up childhood nutrition programs by about $2 billion in exchange for the CCC money. The bill released on Tuesday increases the nutrition spending to $8 billion, something Democrats pointed to as a victory.
It also includes some new guardrails on CCC funding, to guard against the possibility it could somehow go to oil producers.
In recent years Congress has frequently failed to complete the 12 annual spending bills that fund government agencies on time, instead resorting to short-term bills that kick the can down the road, or even allowing the government to shut down. There are often fights about what policy provisions will be attached to these stopgap bills, since in some cases they are the only legislative vehicle pending that is guaranteed to pass into law.
Mnuchin reiterated in congressional testimony Tuesday that the administration supports a new stimulus package, including another round of $1,200 checks to individuals. But there is little sign that will be happening anytime soon.
And despite some speculation that coronavirus relief measures could be attached to the stopgap spending bill, known as a “continuing resolution,” that does not appear to be in the works.