GOP leadership has instructed House Appropriations Committee staff to begin negotiations with their Senate counterparts, a committee aide confirms. Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) had previously said that he would not enter negotiations until a number had been agreed to, but the aide declined to comment on whether or not this was the impetus for the talks.
The news comes after it was announced that Vice President Joe Biden and White House Budget Director Jack Lew will meet with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill this evening to discuss the budget.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), however, downplayed the recent developments, saying: “There have been discussion for weeks, and those discussions are continuing. There’s no agreement, and nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
UPDATE: Another GOP aide tells NRO that these appropriations talks are unlikely to include the controversial “limitations” or “policy riders” — defunding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, etc. — included in H.R. 1, the long-term spending resolution that the House passed in February, and suggested that many Republicans see a degree of “wiggle room” on theses measures, provided that the top-line number in spending cuts is “big enough.”
UPDATE II: Apparently, the White House told Democratic lawmakers that some of the GOP riders, particularly those placing limitations of the EPA’s regulatory powers, will be included in a final bill.
UPDATE III: George Stephanopoulos has the scoop:
Sources tell me that budget negotiators on Capitol Hill have tentatively agreed on a deal that would involve at least $33 billion in spending cuts from this year’s budget. That’s $23 billion dollars more than Democrats have previously agreed to in short-term continuingresolutions, and $28 billion less than Republicans previously passed in the House.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee will begin discussing how to hit that number with their Senate counterparts as soon as tonight, and Vice President Biden is heading to Capitol Hill for a 6pm meeting with the Senate Democratic leadership.
Interestingly, Senate Democratic leaders had scheduled a press conference for after the meeting with Biden and Lew, but almost immediately canceled it. Assuming the report is correct, it would be a sign that significant progress has been made in negotiations over the last several days. However, there remains to be answered questions regarding the policy riders and whether or not such a plan would fly with a solid majority of Republicans in the House. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told NRO in an interview this evening that he remains committed to the $61 billion figure and policy riders included in H.R. 1, a position he said was shared by many RSC members during a recent conference call.
Meanwhile, this is happening tomorrow.