President Donald Trump left a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday morning seemingly open to a deal with Democrats to raise the budget caps that will cause strict spending cuts in the fall, according to three people familiar with the matter.
While Trump did not commit to anything, the president is notably warmer than some of his staff on the possibility of avoiding blunt budget cuts in the fall that will hit if there’s no new fiscal deal, the sources said. McConnell (R-Ky.) laid out the need to do a caps deal and the president seemed receptive, they said.
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Fiscal hard-liners inside the White House, including Russ Vought, who is currently running the Office of Management and Budget, have been urging Trump to hold firm on the budget cuts. Congress has also struggled to pass a disaster aid bill much smaller than an annual budget deal, raising the prospect that funding the government and raising the debt ceiling this fall could be extremely painful.
But the Senate majority leader is eager to avoid the impact of the automatic spending cuts, or sequester, and has spoken at least twice with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on raising the strict budget caps. Defense spending will be cut by $71 billion if no action is taken, while about $55 billion in domestic spending will be slashed.
The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Vice President Mike Pence interpreted the meeting as Trump’s being amenable to a spending deal, one person familiar with the meeting said. Senate Republicans also discussed the matter at a lunch with Pence on Tuesday afternoon.
Still, one of the sources said that whoever the president delegates for negotiations will determine whether he, McConnell and Pelosi can succeed.
Trump is “open to a deal. Sure,” the source said. “The people he deputizes to negotiate for him will determine the outcome.”