House and Senate negotiators plan to roll out an agreement tonight to fund the government past Jan. 15, avoid another government shutdown and end for now the cycle of budget crises that have dominated Washington for much of the past three years.
Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were finalizing details and hoping to schedule a press conference to unveil the deal, which would partially repeal sharp agency spending cuts known as the sequester in fiscal 2014 and 2015.
Those savings would be replaced by roughly $65 billion in other cuts and additional revenue, including fee increases for airline travelers, cuts to federal-worker and military pensions and higher payments for federal insurance of private pensions, according to people familiar with the talks.
Just before 5 p.m., Ryan told reporters "don't leave" the Capitol.
Ryan and Murray were rushing to file legislation before midnight so the House can vote as soon as Thursday and leave town for the year by the weekend. The Senate, which is scheduled to leave town next week, would vote thereafter.
Senior aides familiar with the talks have said the emerging agreement aims to raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016.
Republican leaders were also seeking additional savings reduce deficits projected to exceed $6 trillion over the next decade. But the deal is not expected to trim the debt, which is now larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any point in U.S. history except during World War II.
Some observers are concerned that Republican leaders may prove unable to find enough support for the agreement. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a long history of overestimating his ability to deliver Republican votes. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been unenthusiastic about repealing the sequester.
If negotiators do push an agreement through Congress, there will be one more potential challenge — the Treasury Department will need another increase in the debt limit, perhaps as soon as late February. Congress agreed in October to suspend enforcement of the debt limit until Feb. 7.
Ryan has raised the idea of using the debt limit to demand progress on an overhaul of the tax code. But GOP leaders have shown little interest. Analysts in Washington and on Wall Street are betting that, after showdowns over the debt limit in 2011 and this fall drove GOP approval ratings to record lows, Republicans lack the appetite to do it again.