The White House has made a second major concession to Democrats in the final stages of negotiations on a critical spending bill, paving the way for a deal to avert government shutdown.
The White House said Wednesday that it would drop its opposition to a subsidy for low-income people in the Affordable Care Act, known as Cost Sharing Reductions, a funding stream that the Trump administration had threatened to stop.
The agreement removes a politically toxic issue that was threatening to hold up negotiations with only two days left until government funding runs out on Friday at midnight.
Still, with time running out to finalize the massive spending bill to fund government programs for the next five months, Congressional negotiators acknowledged that they've run out of time.
Republican negotiators in the House and the Senate released the terms of an extension to fund the government for one additional week, an amount of time they say will allow congressional negotiators to finish their work.
"I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. "The Continuing Resolution will continue to keep the government open and operating as normal for the next several days."
Earlier this week, the administration removed its demand for funding for the construction of a wall on the Southern border, instead seeking additional border security funding.
“Our major concerns in these negotiations have been about funding for the wall and uncertainty about the CSR payments crucial to the stability of the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. We’ve now made progress on both of these fronts,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Pelosi spoke with White House Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus on the phone about the funding bill twice on Wednesday.
The administration’s decision comes down just hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan confidently said Wednesday morning that the ACA subsidy would not be included in the funding bill.
“Obviously, CSRs -- we're not doing that. That is not in an appropriation bill. That's something separate that the administration does,” Ryan said. “We're very, very close in everything else. And now it's just kind of getting down to the final details.”
House Republican aides say that it’s still possible to vote for the measure on Friday and that it could pass the Senate this week as well. But time is running out. If they don’t meet the deadline, they could pass a short-term measure that keeps the government’s lights on for another week until both bodies of Congress can pass the bigger bill.