When the Senate takes up the budget agreement this week, it will bring more than just fiscal relief.
For lawmakers, it will end four years of operating without a budget and bouncing from crisis to crisis, topped by a government shutdown that forced many to trim staff. Call it budget fatigue.
“That’s a good way of putting it,” says Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.
The constant fiscal battles of recent years sucked up bandwidth in Congress. They landed lawmakers in fights that could not be won, tainting the politics and eclipsing other important issues. The lopsided and bipartisan passage of what is universally referred to as a small budget deal in the House on Thursday shows how eager some lawmakers are to move on.
“They are looking forward to doing the things we want to do instead of fighting over shutdowns all the time,” said Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan last week. “We’re just happy that we’re getting this place working again.”
Of course, the compromise agreement, in bill form that is expected to pass in the Senate this week—a cloture vote is expected on Tuesday—is nobody’s version of perfect.
And still to be worked out are appropriations bills showing how spending will be parsed for this fiscal year and next. The bills should be passed by Jan. 15, when the current spending mechanism for government expires — and those could cause battles of their own.
In addition, the debt-ceiling suspension runs out Feb. 7, potentially sparking renewed fighting over government borrowing, although the Congressional Budget Office says various cash-management strategies at the Treasury Department could push the prospect of default into March or later.
But for now, Congress is venturing into harmonic territory that it has not walked for some time.
Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., says that budget weariness is real, but adds that it extends to the American public. “I think there’s a little fatigue on their part from all of this mess,” he said.
Rep. Tom Price, the No. 2 Republican after Ryan on the Budget Committee, agrees that much of the country is tired.
“When I’m home, what I hear from folks is we’ve got to get something done,” he said. “The uncertainty that is out there, the frustration that people have is real. That is translated to us as well. We can’t continue to lurch from crisis to crisis to crisis and expect any wise decisions are going to come out of it.”
He added: “I think this relieves a lot of pressure. I think it lowers the temperature, and hopefully makes it so we can get some real things done on the policy side.”
Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, calls the constant budget and fiscal turmoil “a drag.”
Thompson said the long string of temporary, stop-gap budget measures in lieu of real deals has hindered legislative work to solve other problems lawmakers need to address. “I have nothing good to say about continuing resolutions. That’s not only a drag. That’s a nightmare,” he said. “This puts us back into regular order and for a two-year process. It’s pretty exciting from my perspective. And we didn’t raise taxes to do it.”
Still, for some, there will be lingering resentment and budget-war wounds.
“The reality is, we’re a little over $17 trillion in debt — and if we continue on that path, it will harm this country in the way no military power has ever been able to do,” said Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican. “Consequently, those of us concerned about that grow a little weary of our friends on the left being unable to see the train that is coming at all of us.
“And we are the ones portrayed as the bad guys,” he said.
But Hastings is optimistic that a new era of bipartisan budget cooperation has dawned. “My hope is this is just the beginning,” he said.
Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, says that what lawmakers are feeling isn’t just budget-battle fatigue.
“I think that understates it. This is something else. This is maybe a recognition that we’ve gone too far in our constant fighting,” he said. “We can’t go home and play the same old song.”
As he put it, “Even we are tired of it.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that President Obama would not have to sign the budget agreement for it to become law.
- 1 High Court Vacancy Spells Trouble for Congress
- 2 Why Four Justices Were Against the Supreme Court’s Huge Gay-Marriage Decision
- 3 The Winners and Losers From the South Carolina Republican Debate
- 4 Bush Family Values Pit Jeb Against Grover Norquist
- 5 How (Arrogant, Prickly, Smart) John Kasich Would Upend 2016
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.