Bernstein

One cheer for a budget deal

Washington PostAugust 2, 2012 

Of all the spinning plates – the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the sequester and more – the one that could have been really disruptive before Election Day was handled successfully Tuesday: John Boehner, Harry Reid and Barack Obama all agreed to a six-month spending bill that continues current levels, pushing off all other decisions on spending until the next Congress.

The agreement still needs to be affirmed by votes in the House and Senate, and that won’t come until after the August recess ends. A lot of tea party House members want cuts well below the levels agreed to in last year’s budget deal, and we’ll have to see how many of them vote against the bill that will enact this agreement. If many of them bail, we’ll have to see whether enough Democrats are willing to bail out the House GOP leadership to ensure that it passes.

If the deal does hold, this will stand as another successful maneuver by Boehner; he’ll have averted a government shutdown just weeks before the election, an outcome that most observers believe would have been disastrous for Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans. If extra votes on abortion and health care were the price to get his conference on board for this one, it’s an excellent deal for Republicans.

Ultimately, what this really shows again is that strongly opposed positions need not lead to gridlock and dysfunction. Granted, a six-month temporary deal is not exactly the kind of legislating and budgeting that would win anyone an “I’m Just a Bill” pin, but it sure beats the kind of brinkmanship and refusal to compromise that tea partyers insisted on in 2011 and that many of them are demanding on the campaign trail this year.

This deal is not worth three cheers for Congress – after all, they are supposed to be passing a whole series of appropriations bills this summer, instead of kicking the can well into 2013. But it is worth one cheer, at least. There is still plenty of time for unforeseen events to shake up the presidential race, but it looks like a government shutdown won’t be one of them.

The Washington Post

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who contributes to the Washington Post blogs Plum Line and PostPartisan.

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