Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., walks through the Capitol building on Oct. 14 in Washington. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic and Republican leaders are close to finalizing a debt-ceiling deal that gives lawmakers and the White House three more months to find a way to avert new defense sequestration cuts.
“BCA numbers to remain in effect for the duration of the CR,” a senior Senate aide told Defense News Monday afternoon.
That means after three days of talks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have agreed to Republican-preferred funding levels first set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). The deal would, if approved by the House, reopen the government until Jan. 15.
The idea is to give congressional Democrats and Republicans, and the Obama White House, three months to talk about a slew of budgetary issues. One would be lessening or replacing the remaining twin $450 billion defense and domestic sequestration cuts.
Reid and McConnell are close to a deal that raises the debt ceiling until mid-February, while giving Washington until Jan. 15 to look for a way to replace or reduce a $50 billion cut to planned Pentagon spending set to kick in that day, according to sources and reports.
Democrats injected a sequester-replacement plan into the talks over the weekend, but Republicans pushed back. GOP senators were worried Democrats would use such a move to sneakily exceed spending caps set in place by the same 2011 law that created sequestration.
The Reid-McConnell debt ceiling deal includes a measure to keep the government funded into early next year. It proposes the congressional Republicans’ desired $986 billion spending level, which would drop in mid-January if a sequester-replacement deal is not struck in the meantime.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said Reid and McConnell built their deal off the foundation of a plan hammered out in recent days by “13 senators.” That group was composed of members of both parties.
Another Senate aide told Defense News on Monday the Reid-McConnell plan closely resembles the 13 senators’ work.
The Senate could vote on the measure on Thursday.
A temporary CR would leave the Pentagon unable to do things like start new programs or fire up new production lines.