Monday, December 9, 2013

A Tiny Silver Lining

This is how low our government has sunk. An emerging budget deal to avoid another round of faux-crises is being hailed as good news.

I guess it is one small step forward compared to the recent D.C. follies (see: sequester; shutdown), but it's still a far cry from what this country really needs - adult leadership.
The good news for Congress is that if both houses pass a budget deal by Friday, they get to go home for Christmas break with no high-stakes fiscal grudge match awaiting them when they get back. And the prospects for passing a budget deal being hammered out by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), maybe even without the histrionics of recent years, seem to be pretty good.

The deal reportedly proposes to authorize about $1.015 trillion in discretionary funding, more than the $967 billion sought by Republicans — the amount specified in the budget-slicing sequestration that kicked in earlier this year — and less than the $1.058 trillion sought by Democrats. Spitting the difference — so far, so good.

But other than partially reversing the sequestration, Democrats don't appear to be getting much in the package ...

What are the Republicans giving up? A little bit of deficit-reduction, primarily — though a hefty chunk of the increased spending will be used to ease $19 billion in Defense Department cuts scheduled to kick in come January. Most Republicans would like to avoid those cuts...

Republicans also gain from what's not in the emerging deal: There's no raising of the debt ceiling and, equally important, it erases the risk of another government shutdown anytime soon. Congress is deeply, deeply unpopular, and Republicans are still more unpopular than Democrats, in large part because they're seen as obstructionist. A budget deal without any big Tea Party theatrics would be a welcome change for GOP leaders concerned with portraying the party as ready to govern.
Left unsaid in this whole mess is that all the agreement does is give congress the holidays off. It merely avoids another long and loud argument over shutting the government down or balancing the budget. Rather than solving our long term problems, it just kicks the can down the road.


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