Top congressional leaders to meet with White House to talk budget

Budget talks to start next week

By Phil Mattingly, CNN
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(CNN) - The top four congressional leaders will meet next week with White House officials to officially launch negotiations over a two-year budget deal, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The talks will come as there has been growing unease on Capitol Hill about the looming spending cuts and need for a debt ceiling increase set to come into play at the end of September.

The top four congressional leaders include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Several sources have noted that two of the top players in the White House -- acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and acting OMB Director Russ Vought -- have indicated they would be willing to let sequestration take effect in order to underscore the administration's commitment to fiscal restraint.

But it's an idea that members of both parties object to, with the approximately $120 billion in automatic cuts hitting key priorities on domestic and Pentagon spending that have long been the trigger for past budget deals. The need for a debt ceiling increase, with no clear vehicle to do it at the moment, has also unsettled some lawmakers. As it stands, Republicans have pushed to decouple the two issues, but Democrats are insisting a budget deal and debt ceiling increase be paired together, as they have been in the past.

Politico first reported news of next week's meeting.

The meeting comes as McConnell and McCarthy have stressed to President Donald Trump multiple times over the past several weeks that work on a deal needs to begin in earnest. McConnell, after a meeting with McCarthy and Trump last month, publicly announced the creation of a staff level working group to try and lay the groundwork for a possible deal. The talks are now elevating to the principal level.

Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met with McConnell on Capitol Hill Thursday. McConnell met with Trump on Tuesday to discuss the issue and the President in recent weeks has been described as willing to hear out negotiators on a possible deal, despite the debate inside the White House over whether to let the scheduled cuts take effect.

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