WASHINGTON -- A possible deal on a stopgap spending bill to avert a preelection government shutdown looked uncertain late Friday, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed to come to terms with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Two Republican aides familiar with the situation said Pelosi, D-Calif., had essentially backed out of a deal with Mnuchin that would have traded $30 billion in farm bailout money that the White House wants for $2 billion in child nutrition spending that Democrats want.
A Democratic aide denied there was any deal in the first place, but said Pelosi was pushing Mnuchin for higher spending on child nutrition in exchange for the farm bailout funds. All the aides spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.
Next steps were unclear. All sides had agreed that the deal would extend government funding through Dec. 11. House Democrats had hoped to file the legislation Friday, but it appeared that Monday would be the earliest that could happen.
It was also uncertain if a bipartisan agreement would be reached at all -- or if House Democrats would file a bill without Republican support and move forward from there.
Failure to pass the stopgap spending bill by the end of the month would lead to a shutdown Oct. 1, just weeks before the election.
The developments came a day after President Donald Trump announced at a rally Thursday night in the battleground state of Wisconsin that farmers would get an additional $13 billion, money from the same fund that the administration is trying to replenish via $30 billion in the short-term spending bill.
Throughout the day Friday, Democratic aides said Pelosi was strongly opposed to including the $30 billion in the stopgap bill.
At a certain point late in the afternoon, however, it appeared she had agreed to do so, on a phone call with Mnuchin, in exchange for the $2 billion in child nutrition spending -- something that was confirmed by aides in both parties at the time. But she subsequently called Mnuchin back and said she could not make such a deal, aides on both sides said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin agreed some time ago on the need for a stopgap spending bill to keep the lights on at government agencies like the Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services. Some government programs including Medicare and Social Security keep running on their own, but many federal agencies and programs require annual spending bills to stay open from one fiscal year to the next.
Congress has frequently failed to complete the 12 annual must-pass spending bills on time in the past several years, instead resorting to stopgap measures known as "continuing resolutions" that extend agency funding at existing levels for short periods of time.
Pelosi dismissed a reporter's question about whether she was letting the perfect be the enemy of the good regarding the broader coronavirus relief bill. She reiterated that she has already compromised from the $3.4 trillion bill that House Democrats passed in May, which the White House and Senate Republicans dismissed.
"It's not perfect ... perfect is $3.4 trillion," Pelosi said. "This is not about perfect being the enemy of the good."
Trump has recently signaled he would be comfortable with a stimulus bill in the area of $1.5 trillion. Both Trump and House Democrats have said they support legislation that would send another round of stimulus checks to Americans as well as more unemployment assistance. But many other parts of the package remain unresolved.
The plight of airlines is also a growing area of concern for members of both parties. A provision from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act that required airlines to keep workers on the payroll in exchange for aid expires Sept. 30, and major airlines have warned of mass layoffs.
In a letter Friday to congressional leaders and Mnuchin, the head of United Airlines and the leaders of several major airline unions urged Congress to renew negotiations on a new covid-19 relief bill that would include an extension of the airline Payroll Support Program. The alternative, the letter warned, is "involuntary furloughs" of 16,000 workers.
Information for this article was contributed by Lori Aratani of The Washington Post.